Can a Nobel Prize-winning Economic Theory Redefine our Care Delivery?

If you ask a group of people about a time when health care really worked well for them, you’ll likely hear the same thing.  

While the specific circumstances vary, you’d hear about patients and providers working together to create the best possible outcomes.  But, this isn’t the norm in health care, explains Paul Batalden, MD, a renowned health care industry leader and University of Minnesota Medical School alum.

Some University of Minnesota Medical School faculty and our colleagues from University of Minnesota Physicians and Fairview Health Services recently gathered with Dr. Batalden and other experts from around the world to kick off research aiming to change that.

Research to Reimagine Healthcare 

On June 7, the University of Minnesota Medical School, M Physicians and Fairview co-hosted Dr. Batalden and the kickoff of a group called the International Coproduction Health Network (ICoHN) Value-Creating Business Model Community of Practice. This group is composed of teams from health care systems around the world, including Dartmouth University and Jönköping University in Sweden.

Together, the group is beginning a three-year multi-site study to determine if and how a greater ‘coproduction’ model of service delivery could be viable for the future of healthcare.

What is Coproduction?

Simply put, coproduction is what happens when organizations provide a service that creates value because of the partnership between professionals and their customers.

In their Nobel Prize winning economic theory, Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson describe how residents coproduce public safety with their local governments by installing fire alarms and calling 911 in emergencies, among other things.

In contrast, other organizations create value for their customers through a transaction. A farmer grows the carrots that you buy, or a clothing company makes your favorite pants.

While a transactional approach has its place in health care, particularly in emergencies, Dr. Batalden says coproduction is often the experience that people feel when health care works best for them.

“It isn’t that we aren’t ever doing coproduction, it’s that we aren’t noticing it,” said Dr. Batalden. 

“Why couldn’t we begin to explore making what everybody seemed to be able to recognize as really good service — why couldn’t we make that happen more regularly?”

“Coproduction in health care is part of designing and understanding how we tailor our service to the lived realities of patients,” said Brad Benson, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine and Chief Academic Officer for M Health Fairview. “Our sense of partnering is very different than what this model demands of us.”

Looking at Every Angle

For Dr. Benson, the invitation to join this research comes at a perfect time.

“This gathering, and our participation in this research, illustrates the power of M Health and Fairview coming together to reimagine health care,” said Dr. Benson. “Now we have a place where we can do research like this and leverage the expertise of an international organization, all to work towards better care and care experiences for patients in Minnesota and beyond.”

The research will take place in the Comprehensive Weight Management program. Experts will leverage the strength of the entire system — from the program’s clinical and operations leaders to experts from Community Advancement, Finance, Marketing, and PreferredOne — to discover truly comprehensive approaches that improve outcomes for patients. 

“The vision of this new model of coproduction of care could work in many facets by enhancing provider and patient engagement, improving patient outcomes, and supporting patients as they learn self-care techniques to improve their overall health,” said Bridget Slusarek, RN, BSN, MBA, Service Line Director for Comprehensive Weight Management at M Health Fairview.

“Research is integrated in our program and differentiates us from many other weight management programs.”

“It is a real privilege to work with Dr. Paul Batalden and his team along with 10 other sites from four countries on a new and innovative coproduction model of obesity care in our program,” said Daniel Leslie, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery and Medical Director for Comprehensive Weight Management.

What’s Next

The meeting on June 7 was just the beginning. Each team shared insights and best practices with the group as research progresses. And while Dr. Benson recognizes that no one does co-production well yet, part of the joy of research is in discovering a new way forward together.

“Our goal is and always has been to get better every day,” said Dr. Benson. “This is another way we hope to take completely new ways of thinking and apply them so we can be true partners in optimizing health — for the person in front of us, for our community, for our state.”

Paul Batalden, MD, June 7 at the University of Minnesota to kick off research into a new form of service delivery for patients.

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