Establishing Partnerships


Establishing partnerships with healthcare systems often requires more time and planning than working with clinics one-by-one.

Key steps include: understanding the system, getting to know QI priorities, and establishing relationships with QI leaders.

Understand the structure of the healthcare system

Healthcare systems are complicated organizations. Learn the structure of the system to understand how to best support HPV vaccine improvement projects. Important questions to answer include:

  1. How many clinics, patients, and providers does the system have?
  2. Who are the decision-makers?
    • What is the organizational structure of the system?
    • Is there a QI department or leader in the system?
    • Who are the vaccination “champions”?
  3. How does the system set QI priorities?
    • Who sets QI priorities for the system and clinics?
    • How are QI priorities selected?
    • Can clinics or providers choose QI priorities?
  4. What are the workflows in the system and in clinics?
    • How do things really get done?
    • Who is involved in the processes that you want to change?
  5. How does this system track data and metrics?
    • What type of EHR do they use and what are its capabilities?
    • How does the system report data to providers and clinics, and what data do providers have access to?
    • Are they currently tracking HPV vaccination? If so, what measures are they using?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help ensure the sustainability of partnerships and help QI partners demonstrate how they can be of value to the health system.

Know the system’s priorities and process

 Healthcare systems prioritize saving time and money, along with improving patient care. Keeping these priorities in mind can help QI partners focus their message. QI partners will have more success establishing relationships with healthcare systems if they demonstrate how their project will match these goals.

“The senior team at the system level has set the priorities for the year…. So they have set all of the goals broadly and then determined for each site what our goals are. And so I would take our site ones, and it’s like, okay, what work would help up us to get to our goal that is set for us at the system level.”

Health system QI Leader

Many healthcare systems choose QI focus areas that change on a regular cycle of 6-12 months. Successful partnerships coordinate with systems’ QI timeline. They also match partners’ projects and resources to systems’ priority areas.

Build relationships

Successful QI partners know who determines QI priorities for the health system. Decision makers are different for each system. They can have many titles and work in different roles. They can be clinicians or non-clinicians. They have a wide range of job titles, training, and backgrounds.

Titles for QI leaders can include:

QI Leader Titles

Chief for Innovation and Strategy Director of Pediatric Population Health Initiative
Chief Quality Officer  Director of Quality and Patient Safety
Director of Clinical ServicesMedical Director for Performance Excellence
Director of Clinical QualityPatient Service Manager

Partners can identify QI leaders by looking at health system websites for job titles and responsibilities that describe quality improvement. They should also talk to people in the health system to find out who is considered a QI leader inside the organization. Identifying the QI leaders takes time and effort, but that effort will increase the likelihood of a successful and sustainable project.