As a healthcare professional, what do you see working for individuals in poverty in your community? How will you be affected by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare)? aha! Process offers strategies that healthcare providers like you can use to improve healthcare access and create positive outcomes for your patients from poverty as ObamaCare takes effect.

Implementing strategies for improving healthcare is the focus of Bridges to Health and Healthcare, an upcoming book release from from aha! Process. The framework outlined in the book and corresponding training workshop inform healthcare professionals about ways to work more successfully with persons in poverty in order to better meet the new challenges of the law.

Change Forces Innovation

Kelli Valenti, VP for Strategic Planning and Program Development at Ellis Medicine in Schenectady, NY, has been a pioneer in using the Bridges to Health and Healthcare principles in leading a community-wide health coalition to improve access and quality of care. In 2007, a merger of Schenectady’s three hospitals made Ellis Hospital the single remaining acute-care hospital and one of the community’s largest primary care providers, serving a community of 150,000 people. In the years since, a broad community coalition has used Bridges to enhance access to healthcare services, leading to measurable improvements in community health and positioning Schenectady as a leader in healthcare innovation.

The primary strategy for using Bridges at Ellis has been to develop new perspectives and procedures so that patients in poverty can be “heard” by and build relationships with their caregivers. Historically, patients who are more affluent have tended to experience more positive relational experiences with clinical caregivers, insurance enrollment staff, and others in the healthcare system than their less affluent counterparts. According to Valenti,

Major elements of healthcare are ‘broken.’ And this means that there is relatively little risk in trying new things. The worst that can happen is that the system will remain broken, while any improvement is a step in the right direction. The goal and the lesson of this initiative, of which Bridges concepts have been key, has been the value of understanding the needs of the community using a comprehensive and consistent ‘lens’ to ensure that those needs are always considered, and always including representatives of the community as voices ‘at the table’ in the course of everyday business.

(Source: From Vision to Action: Best practices to reduce the impact of poverty in communities, education, healthcare, and more, aha! Process, Inc., 2013)

One sign that this approach is having an impact is the measurable reduction in the use of the Emergency Department for primary care at Ellis, as well as a decrease in unnecessary hospital readmissions, which will not be reimbursed when the new healthcare law takes effect. In fact, ObamaCare includes incentives for hospitals to provide quality—rather than quantity—of care for publicly insured patients, and includes penalties when discharged patients return to hospital within 30 days.

We congratulate Ellis Hospital for all the positive changes they have made—and continue to make—for their under-resourced community, and for being an example of how Bridges can significantly impact the success of a growing and changing institution in serving its community.

How Bridges Can Help You

Below are a few examples of how the Bridges to Health and Healthcare constructs can help your organization better meet the needs of your patients from poverty under the demands of the new law. These are just a few examples of how we can provide a springboard to change.

  • Educating your staff on the mindsets and habits of the under-resourced they serve to provide a common language for improved patient management and communication.
  • Providing training and tools for fostering relationships of mutual respect with all patients to increase trust and compliance with medical advice.
  • Demonstrate the value of having individuals from poverty at the table as your healthcare community makes decisions about how to improve access and quality of care.

To learn more about proven ways to make positive changes for your patients, save money in your healthcare institution, and comply with requirements of the Affordable Care Act, contact Ruth Weirich at or (800) 424-9484.