From fragmentation to collaboration.

The Setting

In 2006, with growing numbers of uninsured and underinsured patients, Milwaukee’s health system executives recognized that their organizations, individually, could not effectively address the systemic issues driving a fragmented, costly healthcare delivery model for low-income, medically underserved individuals in Milwaukee County.  Emergency department utilization was increasing at all hospitals in the county and almost half of ED visits made by Medicaid or uninsured patients were for primary care treatable conditions. With the economy slowing and area business leaders troubled by studies suggesting that Milwaukee’s health care costs were higher than average, health systems leaders realized they would need to drive change together. It was time, as one CEO said, “to park our competitive juices at the door and have a candid discussion about what we needed to do to fix a broken system.”

The Solution

For almost a year, the CEOs of the area’s five health systems met privately to discuss the challenges facing the community and the risks of failing to overcome highly competitive instincts. It was clear that building an authentic and sustainable collaboration would require significant, ongoing effort. There was also a growing awareness of the number of well intentioned, but duplicative and unaligned efforts in the community to improve care for the underserved. Rather than declare a new initiative, the leaders focused on building an accountable, results-oriented collective-impact model. Effectiveness required a limited scope: health improvement and cost reduction through a focus on coverage, access and care coordination for Milwaukee’s uninsured and underinsured.

Launched in early 2007, the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership has remained true to its mission of improving heath care for the underserved populations by functioning as a convener, catalyst, clearinghouse, broker and advocate for improving health outcomes – especially for those who are most vulnerable.

15 Years of Working Together for a Healthier Milwaukee

2007: Milwaukee health systems pool resources to create the MHCP and a Shared Community Investment Fund.

2008: Completed a Primary Care Access Study revealing a 54% gap in access to healthcare in Milwaukee’s 10 high poverty zip codes.

2009: Implemented the Emergency Department Care Coordination initiative across multiple emergency departments to connect low-income patients to primary care and reduce avoidable ED visits.

2010: Partnered with the Wisconsin Policy Forum and other partners for the first of three community-wide studies aimed at redesigning the behavioral health care delivery system and improving access to mental health care.

2011: Launched the Specialty Access for the Uninsured Program to create barrier-free access for uninsured patients served at Federally Qualified Health Centers and safety net clinics.

2012: Emergency Department Care Coordination study showed a 44% reduction in subsequent ED visits by patients linked to primary care medical homes.

2013: Milwaukee health systems published the first shared Community Health Needs Assessment in partnership with local health departments in Milwaukee County.

2014: Expanded the work of the Milwaukee Enrollment Network (MKEN) – a collaboration of nearly 100 organizations working to enroll residents in Medicaid and Marketplace coverage and reduce the uninsured rate.

2015: Community and Population Health added to the Partnership’s goals to reflect the intersection of health care with broader community concerns, such as early childhood education, behavioral health and infant mortality.

2016: Recognized by the White House as the top performing metro area in the nation for Marketplace enrollment. MKEN members helped fuel a 6% increase in coverage the following enrollment period.

2017: The Shared Community Investment Fund exceeds $25 million in aligned funding toward a community-wide health improvement plan since 2007.

2018:  Launched Health Compass Milwaukee, a comprehensive source of real-time, health-related data about Milwaukee County residents and communities.

2019:  Implemented Housing is Health initiative in Milwaukee hospitals to connect homeless patients with temporary housing, provide case management and aid in an ultimate transition to permanent housing.

2020: Strategic partner in the Milwaukee County COVID-19 Response, including participation in the Milwaukee County Unified Emergency Operations Center (UEC)and leadership of collaborative work across health systems and health centers through numerous sector-specific workgroups.

2021: Launched Racial and Health Equity Council to facilitate and promote shared learning and accountability among members and imbue health equity policies and practices in MHCP activities and operations that promote diversity, inclusion and equity.

2022: Doors to the new Mental Health Emergency Center to open in September. A joint venture between Milwaukee County and the area’s four health systems, the center will provide emergency services and connections to continuing care for adults and youth experiencing a mental health crisis.