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Formalizing partnerships with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) may seem daunting; however, there are some simple actions you can take.

Cultivate a spirit of sharing, effective communication, and mutually beneficial outcomes

Being honest, cultivating a spirit of sharing and effective communication, and emphasizing mutually beneficial outcomes that meet the needs of your organization and those of the FQHC will be instrumental in formalizing the partnership with the FQHC. Doing so will strengthen your relationship with the FQHC and ensure that the partnership has value for both partners.

Use business practices to formalize and strengthen your partnership

Use common business practices to manage the partnership and ensure that the partnership retains its value in the eyes of the FQHC. Specifically, develop written documents to outline expectations and avoid miscommunications. Develop a formal agreement that covers what you are going to do together and who is responsible for what by when.

There are many types of agreements that outline the roles and responsibilities of partners, the budget, monies to be paid for services, and the timeline for work to be accomplished. Common examples include memorandums of agreement (MOAs), memorandums of understanding (MOUs),  or contracts.

Regardless of which agreement you choose, it should set a framework for clear communication between the parties involved. You can use workflow process diagrams to outline communication pathways and roles for each stakeholder in every stage of CDSME delivery, including participant screenings, referral, enrollment, and follow-up.

Establish the terms for risk sharing and value-based contracting

Risk sharing means determining the costs of offering CDSME for the partner organization, and outlining how those costs will be shared. Many providers such as FQHCs know this concept as a “Value-Based Contracting.” Value-based contracting is a model of health care contracting where the provider (FQHC) is eligible to receive a financial reward or face a potential penalty based on the value that the provider delivers to the payer (e.g., Medicare, other insurer). Value is defined as reduced overall cost of care and improved clinical indicators. When the provider is able to improve clinical indicators and reduce costs, they bring more value to the payer.

If and when cost savings are achieved, then the joint risk is rewarded. Not only do you need to define costs, but you also need to explain how you will jointly determine success and how you each will be rewarded. For example, the reward may be a pre-determined percentage of shared savings, an increased budget for the next workshop series, an additional workshop series planned, or the sponsorship of a leader training.

Designate a champion(s)

Identify FQHC staff members to champion the program and be your “go-to people.” Champions are on the front lines and can provide needed access to providers, patients, and partners necessary to grow your CDSME efforts. FQHC program coordinators, outreach workers, and care coordinators can make good champions. Cultivate relationships with your champions by being positive and understanding that their time is very precious.

Establish processes for marketing and recruitment

Assist the health center in embedding the program by developing a process for promoting it. Schedule regular meetings with FQHC staff to brainstorm goals, marketing, recruitment, referral, partnerships, and the logistics of the program delivery. Identify opportunities to share program brochures and materials, and ensure there are plenty on hand. Find ways to avoid duplication in new materials development. For example, editing an existing brochure template, rather than developing a new one, can expedite decision-making by the practice.

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