“You’ll learn a lot and love the networking.”  That’s what I heard from my fellow team as I prepared to attend the Southern Sharing Symposium for the first time and boy, were they right!  As I walked in and watched everyone hugging people they hadn’t seen in a while (that’s what we do in the south) and was introduced to folks from the other states, I knew immediately that I was surrounded by a group of experts.  But not just experts, professionals who were willing to be vulnerable and ask for help, ones who were willing to share best practices and others who were seeking potential solutions to the struggles they were facing.  You see, whether you’re in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas or South Carolina, we’re all in this for the right reasons – to promote safe, effective care for patients in our communities and to decrease the risks to the patient and to the organizations that provide care.  And, we all have the same struggles, just to different degrees and different perspectives.

Southern Sharing is comprised of leaders from 5 southern states who work in the insurance arena and who, through this process, work together to identify and serve the customer better, while sustaining and growing their organizations.  This is what I learned from my inaugural meeting.

  1. Medical Marijuana — it’s coming to a state near you! While some states have already passed legislation, others are working on it, and all of us are dealing with the risk issues surrounding it.  Our discussion centered around – how to protect the patient, the clinician providing the care and the organization responsible for the care.  Medical marijuana poses problems for patient safety, compliance with licensure and regulation, and medication safety, as well as how to coordinate appropriate actions with law enforcement.  This group showed an effort to be preventive and to proactively address the associated risks that will surround all of these issues. Stay tuned!
  2. Customer service and relationships are a must! Whether you’re in a rural area, a metropolitan city or on the border of the U.S., building a relationship with your patients/customers is a vital part of everything we do.  As hospitals merge and become systems, buy and acquire physician practices, or are at risk of losing services or closing, the insurance companies must come along as a partner, not a threat and help these organizations focus on strategies that will sustain them.  Innovation, diversification, and culture within our organizations must be built in a way to meet these challenges.  We must push ourselves forward with processes and programs that will help our hospitals and practices meet the needs of not only the patient but their families and communities as well.  You should be excited to hear that’s just what I heard as different groups shared about their strategic planning and growth opportunities.
  3. Data – everybody needs it, but few know how to collect and manage so it can be trended and become useable by the customer and the insurance company. But we know that data helps raise the bar for ensuring and promoting best practices and effective outcomes.  The discussion around this was how to engage our partners through the use of trend data to promote best practices – several great practices were shared.
  4. And speaking of sharing— shared resources were identified as opportunities that should be explored on all levels. This discussion revealed several ways we can share both information and resources, but also gave way to encourage us to explore with our insureds how they can share resources to help decrease the burden and improve the practices for all involved. If you are reading this, I encourage you to check with your insurance partner to explore ideas for innovation and actions that enhance the care you provide and hopefully prevent the risk involved.  You have a dedicated group of leaders and professionals waiting to help you.

Thank you to our partners in South Carolina for hosting the group this year. We look forward to next year’s conference.

Article contributed by Debbie Franklin.