From fragmentation to collaboration.
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 healthcare 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.”
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 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.