Although staff at Next Door Solutions (NDS) had long been interested in working cohesively with healthcare providers, there was no clear path for doing so.
Selecting a provider to partner with was challenging. NDS wanted to make sure their partner was large enough to have the capacity in terms of program and personnel to support the project, while also being able to provide a smaller single pilot site. Ultimately, NDS selected MayView Community Health Center. The selection was based in part on previous experience with MayView and their leadership and in part because with three sites in the community, having a single pilot site was possible.
In January of 2015 Next Door Solutions (NDS) and MayView Community Health Center‘s executive team and key staff met for the first time. The group reviewed the project plan, timelines and the early version of the needs assessment.
“Everyone is so busy, the clinic especially. It was difficult sometimes to find time for everyone to meet and that can make communication hard,” says Sonia Padula, MayView’s Director of Care Management Services. “However throughout the early challenges, staff remained committed to the project. We have to remember our patients trust us, they come to the clinic for help. Its up to us to help them.”
Initially, the project was to be run out of MayView’s Behavioral Health Department located in MayView’s Mountain View clinic. This made for an ideal single site pilot project. However, shortly after the project’s launch, the department was devastated by budget cuts and the project needed to be revised. As a result of the changes, the pilot was expanded to all three of MayViews clinics. The change proved beneficial. Each site has its own specialization and the change naturally led to additional feedback from patients from all facets of the organization.
In addition to the collaborative meetings between the partners, both MayView and NDS worked closely with Blue Shield and Futures without Violence. The leadership team from both organizations attended convenings hosted by Futures without Violence that allowed for opportunities to network and learn from other healthcare and domestic violence partnerships.
Prescription for Success
- Host a meeting with key decision makers present.
- Involve key staff and stakeholders early and often.
- Develop a clear memorandum of understanding so all parties know what is expected.
- Have a willingness to learn from each other.
- Have a commitment to providing comprehensive care to patients, victims and survivors.
When looking for an organization to partner with, consider the following:
- Location – Consider the organizations closest to you. You may already have a working relationship with them and it benefits your patients and clients to work with someone already familiar with the local service landscape. If this is not possible, look for an organization that at least has experience serving your local populations.
- History of other partnerships – You may want to look for an organization that has a track record of successfully partnering with other organizations.
- Capacity – it is critical that both organizations have the capacity to take on a project of this scope. This includes not only having personnel available to act as a liaison, to attend meetings and training, but also includes the organization’s willingness to look at their existing protocols, make changes where needed and provide ongoing support.
Identify key stakeholders early and involve them as often as possible. At a minimum, key stakeholders should include the chief executive officer or executive director of both organizations, the individuals responsible for programs at both organization (such as a director of programs or chief operations officer), the individual identified as the liaison for the project and patient/client facing staff (such as medical assistants or nurses from the healthcare side and a domestic violence advocates from the DV side). Since these adopting changes to protocols often involves a larger change in operations, it’s critical to have voices from throughout the organizations at the table.
Once a partner has been identified, develop a clear memorandum of understanding (MOU). An MOU is a agreement that outlines the main responsibilities of each partner. This helps each partner know exactly what is being expected of them. For example, both organizations may commit to attending regular meetings to support the project, share statistics and evaluation results pertaining to the project. A health care provider may be responsible for developing and implementing protocols and policies to support the screening of patients for domestic violence. Domestic violence organizations may agree to provide training onsite for health care providers.
An initial “kick-off” meeting helps set the tone for the rest of the project. Ideally both organizations will bring their stakeholders to the table and all parties can share their vision, evaluate possible challenges and develop next steps. If this is the first time the two organizations have partnered, it may be valuable to allot time to getting to know each other, the organization’s history, values and how the new project fits in.