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The Hospital of the Future will be Powered by Collaboration

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Management & Operations

How a lab management agreement with Quest helped Community Health Network expand cancer care

Collaboration between healthcare systems and outside partners will help drive the success of the hospitals of the future. That was the message of a recent dialogue between Jean Putnam, executive vice president and network chief nursing officer at Community Health Network, and Matthew Hamlin, vice president and general manager, Great Midwest Region, at Quest Diagnostics. The dialogue was part of a day-long event, “The Hospital of the Future,” hosted by Modern Healthcare.

The potential of the right partnership

Healthcare systems “should be focusing on those things that can directly drive patient treatment, patient care, the patient experience,” said Mr. Hamlin. The clinical lab partner is “an enabling characteristic to all of that. We provide insights to those clinicians working with patients, and do it in a timely fashion, and do it in a manner where you've got predictability of costs, so that the hospital can operate effectively and know that it has capital” to invest in the program that will best serve its patients and its community. “That’s what will allow the organization to really expand more rapidly.”

A partnership would offer this expertise and knowledge to Community Health Network, an Indianapolis-based non-profit health system that includes more than 200 sites of care and affiliates throughout central Indiana. “We were very interested in making sure that we could raise that level of quality and safety, for our communities and our patients,” Ms. Putnam said, “and we depended on our partners like Quest to be able to do that.”

“We want to be the best in the Midwest for cancer care,” she added. “And we need our partners to be on that journey with us.” Testing for oncology is a complex operation, “and hospitals and healthcare systems can't afford to do this anymore on their own. So, we have to use those strategic partnerships.”

“Through a customized lab management agreement, Quest now provides Community Health Network professional hospital lab services, offering broad, high-quality and innovative test services,” Mr. Hamlin said. “What we do is provide a core competency with regard to professional high-quality laboratory management. We live it, we breathe it every day. And we stand behind those commitments, thus freeing up hospitals to do the things that they are most competent in performing.”

Align your values, keep communications open, and value your personnel.

The most crucial element of a good partnership is alignment of values between the hospital and the lab partner, Mr. Hamlin continued. “One of the things that we did very purposefully early on in our collaboration was to assure that we understood your mission,” he said of Quest’s work with Community Health Network. “We understood the kinds of things that were important to the community with regard to the patient experience, and then built the training materials and change processes to explicitly align with those objectives.” That alignment was present from the start, but is reinforced by regular meetings to make sure it remains strong.

“Metrics really governed the partnership,” he added, providing the tools both sides need to evaluate the success of the collaboration. “The governance model that's in place is explicitly intended to assure that there's full transparency with regard to what we do and how we do it.” Clinicians, administrators, and others within the hospital community all have a role in setting priorities and monitoring success.

And finally, the success of the partnership depends on the quality of the people the outside partner can bring into the institution, and the commitment of the partner to keep top-quality staff on board. “We continue to make meaningful investments in training and career path guidance for every individual,” Mr. Hamlin said, “having that 1-on-1 discussion to say, ‘What is it that you need our organization to do to get you to stay with us?’ and then we develop very explicit plans around that.”

The details of the event can be found here:

Use of the terms partner and partnership are not intended to imply that a legal business entity exists, the terms are used to connote a collaboration to achieve an objective.

Page Published: March 30, 2023

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