Collaborative effort

“I’m going to give you a scoop that just came across my desk 30 minutes ago,” says Alan Bleyer, president and CEO of Akron General Health System. “Akron General has just been notified that, for the third time, we’ve been named as one of Solucient’s Top 100 Hospitals.”

This study measures performance benchmarks and places Akron General Medical Center among the top teaching hospitals with 200 or more acute-care beds. Its placement on the list is added to its ranking by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 50 hospitals in the United States.

National recognition and ranking are quite the accomplishments for this Akron hospital, but Bleyer is quick to give credit to the hospital’s many partnerships and collaborative programs.

“We are a participant in approximately 200 national studies of new pharmaceuticals under investigation,” he says. “What’s really exciting is when you come to Akron General, you’re receiving the clinical capability you would find in Chicago or Atlanta … If you come to Akron General, you’re getting state-of-the-art care.”

That care includes a collaboration that Akron General entered into with Akron Children’s Hospital. The Children’s Hospital recently took over Akron General’s special care nursery, meaning that every baby born at Akron General is under the direct supervision of Children’s Hospital.

Smart Business spoke with Bleyer about why and how Akron General creates and works within these partnerships.

How do you decide a partnership is worth pursuing?

The first criterion is making sure the collaboration has value to patients, and the second is that the two partners achieve a win-win situation.

That is what has happened with Children’s Hospital and Edwin Shaw. Both organizations have raised the clinical capability of patient care — whether it’s newborns or patients with stroke and trauma at Edwin Shaw — and it’s been a win-win with both parties.

Any initiative we take has to bring improved quality and improved cost to the care of patients. When we enter into a partnership, both parties need to feel there is a gain and that the common good is achieved.

What are the benefits in collaboration and business partnerships?

People enter partnerships for a variety of reasons. (My reason) is to try to decrease the amount of unnecessary duplication of administrative costs and move our focus onto the care of patients. You want to spend less money in bureaucracy and more money on taking care of people.

If we can figure out a way to develop partnerships, we can decrease the amount of administrative overhead and improve the care of patients.

What do you focus on when collaborating with other businesses?

Make sure there’s shared values, identify a need, then follow through. A lot of partnerships never get off the ground because people spend so much time talking about them they never really execute.

Get something accomplished, put it into action, and once it’s accomplished, it feeds on itself. You begin to realize it’s working.

That’s exactly what we’ve experienced with Children’s. We were going down an avenue that was new to us and new to Children’s, as well. We spent several months working on this collaborative relationship, and then we executed it. I think if you were to speak to both parties, you would probably get the same response. It has been an extraordinary success in terms of the care of newborns.

What benefits has Akron General seen since its collaborations began with The University of Akron, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM) and the Akron Public Schools?

We have a paramedic training program here that has piggybacked with the University of Akron, so in addition to getting a paramedic training certificate, you now can get credits at the University of Akron leading to an undergraduate degree. It elevates the educational standards for paramedic students going through our program, but it also builds upon the strength of the University of Akron.

We have a program that works with the Akron Public Schools called “Healthcare in Progress,” which teaches junior high school kids about health care professions and careers. It encourages them to begin thinking about health care as a challenging career path to consider.

We do a lot of collaborative research between our medical staff and the NEOUCOM faculty. Many departments are collaborating with NEOUCOM in research initiatives. Our orthopedics department has collaborations with both NEOUCOM and the University of Akron.

We have signed a joint venture for occupational medicine with a company called Concentra. Located throughout the United States, it provides occupational medicine to employers. The partnership will expand preventative care and onsite intervention for those employees who need preventative screening, as well as those employees who are injured in the workplace.

This company is focused on taking care of injuries in the workplace and getting people back to work as quickly as possible.

We just signed the agreement in August, so we have a joint venture with Concentra for occupational medicine services to Summit County businesses. This is the most recent partnership we have developed, and we think it will dramatically improve occupational medicine in Summit County to businesses located here.

What kind of work does the hospital do in collaboration with the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross?

One of our senior cardiologists has pursued a big project with the American Heart Association that has gotten national attention. Dr. Terry Gordon has been leading this program to put an automated external defibrillator in every school in case an athlete has a heart attack in the course of a sporting event.

Now Terry is trying to expand from schools to other organizations. It’s been so successful that Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-13) has introduced legislation nationally to consider this a priority for the public health of the United States. It started off in Akron but I think we’re a benchmark for the entire country.

We have had a collaboration with the American Red Cross for many years. We are the largest blood donation center for the American Red Cross in Summit County and have been for years. They provide blood back to us, so we’re not only a donor site but we also receive the benefits of the American Red Cross for patients who undergo surgery. How to Reach: Akron General Medical Center, (330) 344-6000,; Solucient’s Top 100 list,