Teaming Up with Nurses to Improve Health Care for All
Who better to improve patient care than the “heart of health care”?
By Susan Porretta, RN, BS, FAHM, Director of Partner Transformation for Horizon BCBSNJ and Chair of the Horizon Clinical Advisory Council
Now, nurses have the chance to show that they are not just the heart of health care, but agents for positive change, too.
Nurses are the heart of health care. Each performs critical clinical care while also being a key contact for patients navigating a healthcare experience. That’s why Horizon has created its Clinical Advisory Council of nurses. Similar to its three physician advisory panels, Horizon’s nurse’s council includes experienced nurses from a wide range of clinical and academic organizations, as well as Horizon’s own nurses.
The council met for the first time recently — just in time for National Nurses Week — and will continue to meet quarterly. The agendas will be loaded with conversation-starting information on the newest and most impactful patient-caring trends that affect both Horizon and its health.
Caregiving defines us, but it is just the beginning of what nurses do.
Of Horizon’s 548 nurses, many are case managers who assist members with complex or chronic conditions while navigating the health care system. But more voices must be heard. It is well documented by the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research that improving the health and health outcomes at the state, local and national levels require the collaboration of all sectors of the health care community. It is in that spirit of collaboration that the council was formed. Horizon nurses and clinicians from the field meet to discuss solutions that will make a real impact on health care.
As Samantha Totaro-Quinn, LPN and Population Care Coordinator for Family Practice of CentraState at six practice locations, says, “Our minds are constantly thinking about what is in the future — what can we do to help improve the health of our patients and get them engaged in their care. Being on the council creates a new perspective on what’s coming. We love being on the forefront because if you’re not ahead of the game, you’re already behind.”
Capitalizing on the exchange of ideas and experiences
Nurses gather for the first meeting of the Clinical Advisory Council
Totaro-Quinn said that each council member brings a unique perspective and the group as a whole will benefit. “We (population health personnel at CentraState) are the ones who are patient-facing, speaking with our physicians and finding out what they see on a daily basis. When we’re able to combine this with what we hear (from Horizon and the council), that just creates a great working relationship for the future.”
Janet Duni, RN, BSN, MPA and Director of Care Coordination for Vanguard Medical Group in Verona, agrees. “Participating organizations bring slightly different but relatable skills to the table. This will broaden everyone’s ability to really collaborate in the medical neighborhood.”
A focal point for the council
The conditions where people are born, live, work and play — called social determinants of health — can have a profound impact on their health and care. For instance, patients may suffer from nutritional deficits because they live in a “food desert,” an area without access to affordable, nutritious food. They could lack access to transportation or mass transit for doctor visits, or they may experience other barriers that are invisible to doctors and require consultations with social workers to uncover the source of the problem. These social determinants of health will be a focal point for the council.
Duni says her organization’s approach to care has continuously evolved to address social determinants of health. “There used to be a less individualized approach to managing chronic illness. Now, diagnoses and treatment take individual factors into account – including barriers that may prevent patients from accessing care. We strategize a plan of care to address clinical goals as well as these factors, get patients engaged in their own health and self-management, and support them in meeting those goals.”
Horizon is excited by the possibilities and unique perspective that this council of nurses brings to the company and its partners. Now, nurses have the chance to show that they are not just the heart of health care, but agents for positive change, too.