At the Helm

My favorite best practices? The ones that are working for you.

It’s been more than 35 years since we first started finding and forging best practices that solve health care organizations’ most complex challenges. It’s still inspiring to see what goes into creating best practices—and to witness the results when we help members use them to their fullest.

Watching the ways you and your organizations are making best practices work serves as a source of energy for me and the entire Advisory Board team. I wanted to share a few stories with you today—and to ask that you continue sharing your experiences so we can keep the conversation going.

Why best practices? First and foremost, saving lives.

If you’ve ever attended one of our national meetings, used an Advisory Board Technology, or even just browsed this blog, you may already know the basics about best practices: We give our 250,000+ member health care leaders a forum to share challenges, breakthroughs, outcomes, and goals. And, as they do, our experts synthesize those insights with our exhaustive research to turn them into the strategies, operational guidance, and technologies needed to solve health care’s most complex and evergreen problems. That’s part of the story.

The rest of the story happens in your organizations. For example, a member hospital—a 175-bed facility that had struggled to quickly detect and treat sepsis—participated in our six-month Crimson Sepsis Collaborative, an initiative fueled by our best practices for early sepsis identification and guideline adherence. Using our performance tracking technology, along with our strategic framework and workplan for improving mortality, this member decreased septic shock mortality by 10.2%, cut severe sepsis mortality by 6.8%, and increased adherence to sepsis bundle elements by 18%—in just six months.

These improvements saved six lives. Imagine that impact scaled across the country! That’s the power of best practices.

Forging best practices: How to make something better than best

Members sometimes ask me where we “find” our best practices. Well, we have a thorough, thoughtful, and systematic research methodology, honed and proven over nearly four decades—but the full story is much bigger than our time-tested research process. We work with our members not only to identify and highlight proven successes, but also to forge best practices that propel progress across our network.

How a request from one hospital system led to a full-fledged population health model

Take, for instance, our work building Population Health Services Organizations (PHSOs), physician-partnered organizations within health systems to help them improve health outcomes, promote economies of scale and coordination, and reduce variation across the continuum.

We first implemented the PHSO through our work partnering with Dignity Health, a system in need of a centralized management structure for its 10+ Clinically Integrated Networks. We then customized this best practice approach for other large, multi-hospital systems, helping them operationalize plans for population health across a wide range of resources, technologies, and capabilities.

The model has also been a boon for Renown Health, the largest locally owned not-for-profit health care network in Northern Nevada. Looking to manage its entire population across the continuum, Renown has worked with our consulting team to develop a comprehensive PHSO that unifies care management across its acute care, ambulatory care, and health plan services, along with the clinical informatics that govern best practice decision support. Renown expects that eliminating those siloes will enable it to quickly achieve better outcomes, less care variation, and greater efficiency for its patient population.

Hardwired, customized best practices pave way for more resources

I’d also like to share the experience of Hunt Regional Medical Center in Greenville, Texas, which is using our Crimson Continuum of Care technology to better manage the under-insured population. Hunt Regional participates in the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program, which seeks to enhance access, increase quality, and improve cost-effectiveness of care for underserved populations. A combination of ad-hoc reports from the Crimson Continuum of Care application and custom reports built by an Advisory Board analyst is helping Hunt Regional meet the DSRIP outcomes tracking and benchmarking criteria, with expected incentive payments valued at $30M over five years.

And I’ll close with heartening news from Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California, which recently worked with our Service Line Strategy Advisor team to respond quickly when a generous donor offered $1M to build an inflammatory bowel disease center. Service Line Strategy Advisor helped Hoag executives assess the opportunity in their market, equipped them with insight into both short- and long-term economics, and provided a program development playbook. The Hoag team shared this information with the prospective donor who, in turn, felt confident in the plan’s viability and finalized the grant.

A request: Tell me about the best practices that are working for you.

We always start with best practices—whether that’s research supporting a sizeable donation toward your mission, technology enabling targeted improvement, or consulting to support deep transformation. Every time, we make sure you have, and apply, the ones that work for you.

Hearing these examples is an immense privilege for me, and I love sharing them more broadly. I’m eager to hear from even more of you personally about the way you are leading your organizations toward best practices—and with your permission, I will broadcast your successes to our entire membership so that we can continue to learn from each other.

Please drop a note to me directly at, and I’ll share more of these inspiring stories on At the Helm in the coming months. Make sure you've subscribed so you don’t miss this look at the best practices that are working for you and your peers.

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