Solving New Orleans’ toughest challenges
Thomas continues to apply the hard-earned lessons he learned during Hurricane Katrina and the city’s recovery. He kicks off each workday with a 15-minute check-in call with the 12 members of his leadership team. It’s an opportunity to focus on the most pressing challenges of the day, which can range from a public relations issue to a drug shortage, he says.
Ochsner Health System grapples with many of the same challenges facing any multi-hospital health system. For example, 13%—or more than 521,000 of the state’s residents—have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. More than a million people in the state have prediabetes, which means their blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
In addition, rates of heart disease and stroke were 25% higher in Louisiana than the U.S. average in 2017, and the percentage of adults who are obese increased from 35.5% in 2016 to 36.2% in 2017, according to the Louisiana Department of Public Health.
To support community members in tackling these chronic conditions, in 2014, Ochsner Health System launched the O Bar, retail locations where patients and non-patients can purchase items such as activity monitors, wireless blood pressure monitors, and weighing scales. Technology specialists staff the O Bar locations, which means shoppers have help choosing the right digital health app and troubleshooting technical and support issues.
Aimee Quirk, CEO of innovationOchsner, an innovation lab and accelerator founded by the health system, says, “This is a really powerful way to help address some of the access issues and disparities we see.”
She acknowledged that the acute care model is changing—and that’s due in large part to payment incentives ushered in by value-based care. Today, there are seven O Bar locations at health system facilities, and a mobile O Bar travels to locations around the state.
Encouraging staff members to maintain their focus on both the digital and “bricks and mortar” aspects of healthcare isn’t easy, Thomas admits. Supporting team members to work “outside their ‘silos’” helps, he says.
Thomas stresses that it’s about motivating all team members to embrace a “both/and” philosophy. For Ochsner Health System, that requires a commitment to delivering clinical care in its hospitals and physician practices, in addition to providing the expertise patients need when they call an O Bar expert to learn about a new digital health device.