The many complexities of health care today continue to challenge hospital and health system governing boards to ensure that high-quality patient care is provided to the communities they serve.

Nowadays, boards need to bring much more than traditional oversight of finances, quality and patient care. Board members must be knowledgeable across a wide variety of health care topics and issues (some further their learning by rounding with clinicians), as well as community bridge-builders who can forge coalitions to advance health.

The past few years have wrought profound changes, expanding the board’s role in hospital and health system oversight as never before.

For one thing, the accountability of boards has substantially increased. Today, board members find themselves confronted with multi-faceted challenges such as workforce shortages, a rise in behavioral and mental health issues that impact their communities and workforce, not to mention the ever-present threat of cyberattacks and the expanding role of artificial intelligence.

Successfully engaging with these issues requires not only a thorough understanding of them, but the ability to create workable strategies and solutions to support their hospitals and health systems to continue to provide high-quality care for their patients and communities.

Today’s risks have become more significant than in the past. For example, it is important for hospitals and health systems to have a cybersecurity plan in place and for boards to understand what the plan is, what the risks are and what the plan will be going forward.

And because risk oversight has become increasingly important to organizational sustainability, boards also need to create an enterprise risk management (ERM) discipline that supports the identification, assessment and management of risks. This helps boards to function as effective stewards and fiduciaries and focus on the issues critical to creating greater value for their organizations and stakeholders.

At the same time, boards also should be looking at their structure to ensure they are diverse in representing their community’s needs. Diversity not only means race and ethnicity, but age, expertise and skill set. A diverse board is a strong board, one that can have robust discussion about the issues impacting their hospitals and health systems.

Service as a board member today can be demanding, but the opportunity to guide, advise and support the health care organizations that are cornerstones of our communities is immensely rewarding.

The AHA supports good governance by offering education and resources on governance practices and our field’s emerging challenges that are crucial to advancing health in every community across the country. AHA’s Trustee Services serves as the hub for a broad array of efforts to help hospitals and their boards navigate the transforming health care landscape.

In addition, several of AHA’s key meetings have sessions or educational tracks designed for trustees. For example, at July’s AHA Leadership Summit in San Diego, trustees will have opportunities to enhance their understanding of emerging issues in governance and learn to apply new models and practices.

Good governance helps ensure quality care for patients and families; fosters safe, positive environments for health care teams; and ultimately helps create healthier communities.

Thanks to all the community leaders who serve on hospital and health system boards across the country. Please use our trustee resources as additional insight and tools so we can continue our work together to advance health in America.

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