The Class of 2019 profiles the women and men who joined the AHA board this year.

 AHA board member Michelle Hood puts a priority on collaboration and on transforming the delivery system toward a fee-for-value model that uses coordinated care and integrated delivery mechanisms to build a higher-performing heath care system.

The president and CEO of Brewer-based Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (EMHS) has partnered with other health systems – both within the state and elsewhere in New England – and with other health care stakeholders to address community health needs.

“I’ve always been a big believer that you don’t need to own everything,” Hood says. “Partnerships make for strong networks, particularly in a state like Maine where the resources are scarce, the population is scattered and we are always looking for innovative ways to reach people at their time of need.”

While Maine is a state widely regarded for its natural beauty and abundant resources, its health care providers faces demographic challenges with a population that is rural, poor and aging.

Maine’s population density is less than half the national average. While nearly 50% of the state’s population is classified as urban, most residents live in small cities and towns distributed across a large area of more than 30,000 square miles. Its population also is the oldest in the nation with a median age close to 43. Many of its communities face the triple threat of age, geographic isolation and a lack of financial resources.

Given the political climate in Washington and Maine’s demographics, Hood says it is critical for her organization to work closely with state and federal policymakers on innovative policy solutions that can improve care, achieve efficiencies and make care more affordable.

She looks to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to follow through on his early promise of providing regulatory relief and reducing the administrative burden on caregivers so that more resources can be devoted to patient care rather than paperwork.

EMHS is an integrated delivery system that includes more than 90% of Maine’s population in its service area. EMHS offers a range of services and providers, including acute care, medical-surgical hospitals, an acute psychiatric hospital, primary care and specialty physician practices, skilled nursing, inpatient rehabilitation, long-term care and home health agencies, and ground and air emergency transport services.

The Bangor Beacon Community Project offers an example of EMHS’ collaborative approach to building healthier communities. EMHS and its partners received a three-year $12.75 million grant from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to launch the effort in 2010. The program built a web of interconnected systems among all partners, including an electronic health record, disease registries, secure email, home telemonitoring and connections with a statewide health information exchange.

As a result, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services selected Beacon Health, EMHS’ population health arm, to be a Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) in 2012. Success as a Pioneer ACO last year propelled Beacon Health into the Next Generation model of ACOs.

Transformation takes time, says Hood, “but we know we are having a significant impact on the quality of life for people who feel they now are much more in control of their health.”

Before becoming EMHS president and CEO in 2006, Hood served as president and CEO of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, Montana Region, as well as president and CEO of the Montana Region’s flagship hospital, Billings-based St. Vincent Healthcare.

She also had assignments at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and Norton Healthcare in Louisville, where she learned the value of forming tight working relationships with physician leaders in building new clinical services.

Hood served as the 2014 chair of the AHA Section for Health Care System’s council and on the AHA’s Regional Policy Board 1, which covers Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

She enjoys the “collegial nature of the work” on the AHA board. “That is tremendously helpful for anyone working in health care during this time of change,” she says. “I love the idea of being part of the solution.”