In This Together: The Impact of Partnership & Collaboration

Commentary by Richard Azizkhan, M.D.

President and CEO
Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

Caring for critically ill children. Conducting leading-edge research. Advocating to enact child-centered legislation. We are doing so many positive things here at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center—but we aren’t doing them alone.

This, in essence, is a thank-you note. A thank-you to our community partners whose willingness to collaborate has made all of our organizations stronger. Partnership and collaboration. More than popular buzzwords, they are absolute necessities in today’s rapidly changing health care environment, especially for us, one of just 32 freestanding children’s hospitals in the nation. Only by partnering with—and being viewed as a resource for—other health systems and outside communities, insurance providers, schools and social service agencies, can we accelerate our ability to compete with larger entities, ensure our own sustainability and improve health care delivery and the health status of children.

Right now, 30% of kids in our Omaha Public Schools have behavioral health issues; 30% are overweight, according to our recent community health assessment. To fully address the concerns, we have to be out in the community and in direct partnership with our school districts, whether we’re embedding Children’s psychologists in certain schools, encouraging in-school activeness with the Go Noodle program or stationing our nurses throughout the Westside School district.

Now, take that concept of “venturing beyond our walls” miles and miles further. Our mission –to improve the life of every child—compels us to form relationships, partnerships and collaborations that help ensure children outside the metro receive the most appropriate care. Right now, we offer specialty services at 13 sites in three states. We’re looking at other areas where we can provide value, including Sioux City. Proper execution involves close collaboration with community systems and facilities. In turn, we are eager to serve as a trusted resource, helping bridge gaps they’ve identified in their own delivery systems – from quality improvement to nurse training.

Beyond the clinical care paradigm, we see collaboration flourishing in our research and advocacy efforts. It’s why we established the Child Health Research Institute with the University of Nebraska Medical Center–we needed a strong infrastructure to support the kind of transformative, impactful research that’s going to improve the health of children on a global scale.

To give voice to children, we are partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Association, Nebraska Hospital Association and American Hospital Association—and we engage all of our state leaders and congressional delegation. Forty-eight percent of Children’s patients are on Medicaid, and we have a very sacred, social responsibility to protect those children through our advocacy partnerships. From the Nebraska State Capitol to Capitol Hill, there is a very real sense that our legislators are listening to and advocating for us as we navigate the legislative process.

I love that this edition of Spira showcases even more examples of collaboration-in-action—from the launch of the Visionmobile with Building Healthy Futures to the collaborative development of more effective treatment pathways for children with autism. Collaboration works. It’s changing and improving lives throughout our region.

To our many community partners—including all of our local health systems and so many of our social service agencies—know that we value and look forward to strengthening all of our relationships.

To our many generous donors, thank you for helping us, in a very tangible way, to address needs and impact the lives of children.

To the staff at Children’s, my deep appreciation for your willingness to rally around our mission and collaborate with each other. We’re seeing patients with increasing levels of complexity, which requires intense resources, incredible inter-professional and inter-disciplinary teamwork across the continuum of care. You are willing and eager to interweave your incredible expertise and it elevates our entire organization.

Children are 20% of our population—and 100% of our future. Caring for them is a higher calling and a privilege that requires an “all in this together” mentality. There is a hunger for that kind of collaboration at Children’s and throughout our region, and for that, I could not be more grateful.

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