From the CEO's Desk
Terri Sabella, CEO
Friday, June 29, 2018

Section: Spotlight Articles, June/July 2018

As I write this first “From the CEO’s Desk,” I am grateful to the staff of TPCA and each of you for the warm welcome I have received. In my first six weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet individually with almost every member of the TPCA staff, attend a PCA CEO Learning Collaborative where I met with peers from around the country, and visit almost a third of our member health centers. I am so very pleased to be a part of this community. My tour of health centers will continue to provide an opportunity for us to visit one-on-one. I look forward to learning not only what makes each of you and your health centers unique, but also those qualities and values that we have in common that bind us and make us stronger together. 

In the coming months, we will develop our Strategic Plan for the next three years. Development of a strategic plan for any healthcare organization seems a daunting task, as the current environment is prone to sudden and dramatic changes in response to technology, politics, or prevailing philosophies of care. It is even more challenging for health centers, who face not only the aforementioned challenges but, as the local solution to our national health care crisis, must be responsive to the needs of their community. This is not an impossible task. However, it is one that requires intention, thoughtfulness, and a bit of creativity. The right strategic plan for TPCA will contain adequate specificity to drive deliverables; flexibility to remain relevant with evolving care delivery models, payment mechanisms, and shifting political tides; and an ambitious nature that provides support and advocacy for health centers as they drive toward our collective vision of the future.

As you prepare to play your role in this important process, I’d ask you to take time to think about the history of the health center movement. Built upon President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives of the early 1960s, Dr. Jack Geiger advanced a community-based model of care he had studied in South Africa. The community health center movement has since expanded to serve more than 27 million individuals across the United States. I know there are some of you who have been involved long enough to have stories to share about the evolution of our Tennessee health centers, the challenges they have faced over the years, and the victories won. Not repeating prior mistakes by capitalizing on the wisdom held by tenured leaders among us has great value. Understanding that the water ahead is not likely to be any rougher than that we have already endured may serve to provide us with the strength and optimism to move forward. 

I would also ask you to think about the current state of health care in your community. How does your health center improve access to healthcare in your community? How has your health center adapted to modern technology? Have the recent changes made in your care delivery methods, including the Patient Centered Medical Home initiative, improved the quality of care delivered and your patients’ experience? Can you effectively support your patient success stories with data to demonstrate that the result may be attributed to your care team, improved access, and a care model that produces quality outcomes? Does the data you produce accurately convey the complexity of the patient population you serve, the hard work of your multi-disciplinary team, and the improvements in health you have driven in your community? Would it be problematic if you were to be paid tomorrow based upon the quality of outcomes reported today? How has TPCA supported the growth and development of your health center? 

Come to the strategic planning table with your strengths, challenges, and opportunities top of mind. I suspect that we will find common themes to explore that will help us better understand which TPCA programs provide critical support that should continue; what we are doing that is perhaps no longer relevant and will allow for repurposing of resources; and what areas are in need of support or advocacy for which we have yet to develop a program. This information will set the priorities for resource allocation and program development in our strategic plan.

Finally, I’d ask you to do a little daydreaming. Think big and bold! What is your vision for the future? What does healthcare in Tennessee look like in 5 or 10 years? What does your community’s health look like? How do you know? How do your patients receive care? How is that care funded? What changes would have to happen locally, statewide, or nationally for your vision to become reality?

You all know the old joke about how to eat an elephant … one bite at a time. We shouldn’t be intimidated by the size and scope of our challenges. We must take that first bite. There are many things in healthcare that we cannot change. However, where we have influence or control, we should leverage the strength of our network to drive healthcare delivery, clinical quality, and funding in the direction we want it to go. TPCA is the place to harness that collective will. A vivid vision of the future is critical in identifying the incremental steps to move forward in a positive direction with purpose and intentionality.

I look forward to seeing you all in the coming months as we plan for the future of TPCA and our Tennessee health centers.