Leadership Interview: Dick Thompson, Executive Director and CEO Quality Health Network

Quality Health Network (QHN) began beta testing its Community Resource Network (CRN) this month; it is expected to go live early next year. The collaborative community network connects behavioral, social and medical service agencies with clients and with each other through secured shared technology. In this interview, Dick Thompson, QHN’s executive director and CEO, talks about how the Community Resource Network builds on existing efforts in the Western Slope.
Ascent: How does the Community Resource Network build on past and current work in the Western Slope to create an accountable care community?
Thompson: This is really a continuation of work that began with the Colorado Beacon Consortium and, in partnership with RMHP, through a program called Coordinate the Coordinators. 
As we’ve moved forward, we’ve begun to understand more: We’ve learned over the past five years. We’ve had successes, and we’ve failed a little bit here and there. You can learn as much from failure as you do from success—maybe more.
The point about all of this is that individuals are going to move among different locations for care. People will seek help when they need it, where they can find it. It’s not necessarily inside a health care space, is it? So, we need to be individual-centric: No matter where the person presents, they can enter this cross-community care coordination effort. 
It’s the same “no wrong door” concept we applied to the health care space 15 years ago with our health information exchange. With our HIE, no matter where a patient presents for care in the health care space, we want to be able to provide information to the providers to help them work more effectively and more efficiently. CRN simply expands the “no wrong door” to include the social determinants’ space.
Ascent: Why did QHN take on a challenge to bridge community and clinical organizations to meet these social health needs?
Thompson: Community-wide care coordination is essential. It’s a fundamental way to change how we work. If you look at the cost of health care, there’s only so much you can do with negotiating contracts between health plans and providers. I think much of the world has come to the conclusion that there’s very little you can do once the heads are in the beds. So, the secret may be to keep the heads out of the beds. 
And if we’re going to do that we need to move upstream. Arguably, we’ve known since the ’70s that 80% of our health is determined by social determinants. And, if we can begin to lower those costs with far timelier interventions in that sector in a coordinated way across the community, it’s likely to have a very solid impact both on the cost of care and, more importantly, on the health of the individuals and the community. 
That's why we're doing it. It’s squarely in our mission which is to use data to facilitate health improvements in the community. 
Ascent: QHN is receiving national recognition for this work, including from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Tell us more. 
Thompson: We found out about the 2019 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation SDoH Innovation Challenge just a few weeks ago, just before their deadline. Considering all the work that went into envisioning the Community Resource Network—how it got designed, all of it—we think it’s revolutionary in its simplicity. 
Of 110 national applicants for this, we were honored to be among the top five. We focused on only one aspect of CRN—the client profile. We’ve now completed a follow-up submission to see if we can go from semifinalist to finalist. Here’s the 150-character description that was part of the submission: “The SDoH Profile is a person-centric tool helping medical, behavioral, and social providers understand and act on client needs quickly and intuitively.” 
The winner will be announced around Sept. 18, and we’re looking forward to the next round.