AHA Today recently sat down with Elisa Arespacochaga, vice president of AHA’s Physician Alliance, to discuss the group’s work in 2018 and what lies ahead in 2019. 

AHA Today: The AHA launched The Physician Alliance in January. What was the impetus for launching the Alliance, and what have been its main focus areas?

Elisa: The relationship between hospitals and physicians has never been more important. That’s why AHA launched the Physician Alliance – a place for physician and administrative leadership to transform health care together, enhancing and focusing our ongoing work. Thanks to input from many, the new effort has been reimagined to ensure that busy clinicians have easy-to-use resources and the clinical voice is a more prominent part of AHA’s work. At the same time, we offer resources to administrative leaders to strengthen partnerships with the clinical teams. Focusing on physician leaders within AHA member organizations, the Alliance provides resources and experiences framed by the three fundamental values that foster shared decision-making and forge a common language among all health care leaders: Lead Well, Be Well, and Care Well.

AHA Today: What types of resources are available to clinician leaders through the Physician Alliance? 

Elisa: The Alliance matches resources with the needs of busy leaders – from on-demand, web-based learning to immersion experiences. Some of our most popular content includes our Leadership Experience – a retreat that explores the intersection between burnout and leadership, our Questions with Clinician Leaders podcasts (https://www.aha.org/podcasts/2018-01-22-five-questions-clinical-leaders-podcast-series), and educational tracks at AHA flagship meetings. In fact, each month Alliance members receive exclusive content built around our core values. The Alliance soon will release podcasts that highlight successful chief medical officer/chief nursing officer dyads – a continuation of work done with American Association for Physician Leadership and American Organization of Nurse Executives, a case example compendium on clinician wellness, burnout prevention and resilience, and a virtual workshop series on the social determinants of health geared for clinicians.

AHA Today: You’ve hosted some forums across the country for physician leaders to attend in person, and there are forums scheduled for the near future. What are these forums like, and why should clinician leaders attend? 

Elisa: In-person experiences allow clinical leaders to freely share priorities, exchange ideas, and grow their networks. The next Physician Alliance retreat is Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Arizona. This forum enables physician and administrative leaders to create new personal and professional strategies to offset the demands of today’s 24/7/365, fast-paced health care environment. The forum also allows participants to create new skills, patterns, and rituals to improve their well-being and understand the impact of their leadership on themselves and their teams. For more information about this event, please email the Alliance team at physicianalliance@aha.org. 

AHA Today: A number of these forums and other educational offerings have involved working with other physician and non-physician groups. Why are these collaborations important to advancing the work of the Alliance? 

Elisa: Health care is changing rapidly, and a huge part of that transformation reflects coordination that is best achieved when groups get out of their silos and work together. Leveraging the strength of the AHA with other leadership organizations benefits us all; there is no better way to develop an understanding of current issues or meaningfully improve health care’s future. The Alliance team seeks to amplify our members’ voices on key issues related to leadership, well-being and high-value care with national stakeholder groups, including the National Academies of Medicine, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, American Medical Association and others. For example, our recent work with the AAPL and AONE resulted in a series of resources – podcasts, issue briefs and case studies – on effective co-leadership models. We are continuing this partnership to include additional tools to promote strong partnerships across the C-suite. 

AHA Today: AHA recently announced the launch of its Center for Health Innovation. How does the Physician Alliance fit into the work of the Center? 

Elisa: The Center for Health Innovation is committed to rethinking and tackling the obstacles of affordable, high-quality, equitable and accessible health care. Physicians are critical stakeholders and contributors in these efforts. Not only is their involvement integral to any attempt to improve health care, but they need to be a guiding force in shaping it. The Alliance team works collaboratively with the Center for Health Innovation, with our efforts trained on supporting physician and administrative leaders as they navigate the rapidly changing health care landscape together.

AHA Today: Looking ahead to 2019, what do you see as the top priorities for the Physician Alliance? 

Elisa: In 2019, the Alliance will continue encouraging physician and hospital administration leaders to work collaboratively in order to Lead Well, Be Well and Care Well. We are developing additional tools based on feedback from our steering committee and members. Thus far, 2018 has been a very busy year and we plan to share with a wider audience the Alliance’s ongoing work, and how our resources and experiences can positively transform leadership. Our goal is to support partnership through tools, experiences and resources that provide different perspectives on how to work together supportively and effectively. We are focused on developing and disseminating: 

  • Resources for administrators to share health care impact concerns with physicians.
  • Tools to engage and involve physicians in the lifeblood of the hospital. 
  • And a network and professional home for physician leaders to share with each other and stay informed about Alliance activities. 

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