Smyser addresses Accountable Care Community

Hank Hayes • Aug 8, 2019 at 8:30 PM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — The region’s Accountable Care Community is about to turn 1 year old, and that population health effort did some reflecting Thursday at the Bristol Regional Medical Center.

The ACC is a collaborative group with the goal to transform the health of this region. It consists of more than 200 individual organizations with more than 250 representatives who have joined forces to improve community health.

A formalized partnership of Ballad Health, Healthy Kingsport and the United Way of Southwest Virginia serves as the ACC's backbone, which uses the collective impact model to align the efforts of all sectors of a community or region to accomplish shared objectives.

An ACC leadership council, comprised of 24 regional, multi-sector leaders, helps set direction and aligns focus overall and within sectors — such as education, business and community organizations — with every member organization having a unique role.

Dr. Joe Smyser, CEO of The Public Good Projects, a national nonprofit organization that specializes in large-scale community health programs, has been working with the ACC stakeholders and updated them on Thursday.

Smyser addressed these questions:

Have you had a chance to assess how our Accountable Care Community is doing?

"I got introduced to the ACC through Healthy Kingsport. That was a little over a year ago. I met Ballad (Health) and the team through Healthy Kingsport. I’ve taken a a few trips into Tennessee and Virginia. Those trips were coordinated through Healthy Kingsport or Ballad. The last time I was here, it was fantastic. I got to meet all told about 20 different organizations that were members of the ACC. I wasn’t doing a formal assessment of the ACC. My interest was getting more familiar with what was happening on the ground and how the different community organizations were getting involved and what they wanted to see happen in the future.”

What were your impressions of our region?

“There’s only 30 ACCs in the whole country. It’s a really new model. A lot of those ACCs are struggling to coordinate themselves. I think the thing that stuck out the most is the effort is Herculean in scope. Not only are all of these organizations trying to coordinate themselves, but coordinate their programming to drive really specific community health outcomes. My sense was every single person I talked to knows their community and constituents extraordinarily well. They are trying to make sure all of the things they are already doing are aligned to this greater population health effort. I’m seeing growing pains where you would expect. But I’m optimistic of this ACC. I hear things that are shared through national media sources about this region which often portray it as resource-constrained, poor health outcomes, rural people who aren’t getting the help they are needing, and then when I actually spent time in these communities, I was left with the polar opposite impression. I was left with the distinct impression there are hundreds and hundreds of people who wake up every day trying to help their neighbor and their community. I fell in love with the region and the people.”

How long does it take all the stakeholders to get on the same page?

“I think it’s pretty much on track. You do the process of identifying the organizations. The organizations transition to owning that self-determination that is critical. Now we have to think like a state health department or public health department and an intervention would about these complex public health problems. I think it takes months and months because you are organizing human beings. It’s challenging. It’s a ton of work. I don’t think it goes faster, but now it’s in the second year and everyone understands why they are here. Then the work becomes a lot more serious.”

What are some of your main talking points today?

“I’m sharing what’s happened in other states and regions. A little bit of the successes and the struggles of other ACCs around the country. I think if you’re in it, you think about the scale of the problems. Smoking rates, obesity rates, the opioid problem. My role is to get people to think this is a unique opportunity. This is really a once-in-a-career thing.”

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