Collaboration Still Works? Our 5Q With Craig Brammer

Craig Brammer is CEO of The Health Collaborative, a unique community-based organization in Cincinnati that is working to bring better health and health care to the region. Craig came to The Health Collaborative from the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), where he was integral in the effort to increase adoption of bring electronic health records.

Prior to that he had significant experience leading regional health initiatives, including the local Aligning Forces for Quality program, funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Health Collaborative views itself as a neutral forum where the various stakeholders can collaborate on achieving better health, better care, and lowers costs, using data-driven processes and programs. More surprisingly, they have a long and track record of getting the local health systems, payors, and employers to actively participate in a number of initiatives.

Craig shares his insights on what has made The Health Collaborative both unique and successful.

  1. Cincinnati is a rarity these days: several competing health systems, multiple major health plans, and an active employer community interested in health care. How has the Health Collaborative managed to get all those parties, as well as the public sector, not only together at the table but also cooperating? What is the secret? What are the ongoing challenges?

I think Greater Cincinnati is fortunate and somewhat unique to have an ecosystem committed to supporting better care, smarter spending, and healthier people. I give the credit to our members and partners who are able to put competition aside and come together to solve some of healthcare’s toughest challenges for the health of our community.

It goes back to at least 1991, when some of the large local employers used their clout to get the key hospitals and health plans to start collecting and using data on hospital performance. In the process of reaching consensus on a better way to measure quality, the basis for future collaboration was born.

Today, The Health Collaborative provides the neutral forum for those interested in improving health and healthcare to solve problems together. The reality is no one can do it alone.

The Health Collaborative

2. One of your landmark achievements is the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) project, your primary care medical home model. It has gone from a local pilot to being statewide, and is one of the largest such programs in the nation. Can you talk about the program and some of its accomplishments?

With Comprehensive Primary Care (CPC) Classic, we were one of only seven regions in the U.S. selected to pilot a new way of paying for primary care — paying to keep people well. Building on the success of the CPC Classic pilot, CPC+ puts more primary care practices at the center of patient-focused care for quality improvement and healthcare cost-savings.

Our success in the first phase has resulted in an expansion of this approach to the entire state of Ohio and Kentucky. We are the largest of the 14 regions in CPC+ with 562 total practices, including approximately 23 practices in Northern Kentucky, and 14 payers participating.

3. One of the things that even people who know about the Health Collaborative may not realize is that you’re also a tech company. Can you tell us about your hb/suite of technology services and what it brings to the community?

Since the late 1990s, HealthBridge has supported our local Health Information Exchange (HIE) — another collaborative community project. In 2015, we brought it and the Greater Cincinnati Health Council into The Health Collaborative under a combined management structure and Board. It now operates as a service line for our members, the local provider community and health plans.

As such, we facilitate the secure electronic movement of health-related information among multiple organizations. One example, we’re able to notify a provider in real-time when one of their patients is admitted to the ER.

Each month, 15 to 20 million results like this are exchanged, covering 4.2 million lives. Our footprint spans from Dayton to central Kentucky to Bloomington, Indiana. We are also piloting a program with other Health Information Exchanges across the country to exchange health information more broadly across state lines.

4. There is growing recognition that many health problems are due to social determinants of health. Can you describe some of the work you are doing in addressing these, such as through your Gen-H initiative?

Cincinnati is fortunate to have exceptional healthcare resources — ranking among the top cities on national measures of quality care. But our health outcomes are not exceptional.

We know that only 20% of a person’s health is attributed to clinical care. The rest is attributed to genetics and unmet social needs such as transportation, housing issues, food insecurities and more. What’s more, we know that because these unmet health-related social needs play such a critical role in our health, our most vulnerable populations face the greatest health challenges.

Generation Health, or Gen-H, is a community-wide response to the critical and growing health challenges our community is facing. The vision is simple: Cincinnati is healthy by design and everyone is connected to quality affordable healthcare…EVERYONE.

Gen-H seeks to eliminate the significant health disparities that increase healthcare costs and worsen health outcomes.

As the backbone organization for Gen-H, The Health Collaborative is activating data-driven solutions to address the social and economic factors that impact the health of our region. This involves ensuring that all of us have what we need to achieve our healthiest potential, including connecting services from the medical and social sectors.

We’ll also facilitate the convening and connecting of the good work that’s already taking place in our neighborhoods.

5. With your broad portfolio of initiatives and resulting expertise, you compete for talent against health systems, health plans, and technology companies, to name a few. How do you attract and retain the right workforce against other organizations — some of whom are your partners and members — that often can offer more money?

I think The Health Collaborative attracts mission-driven self-starters. Our people are interested in making a difference, moving the needle on improving health and healthcare. My hope is we’re the kind of organization that fosters and rewards innovation, the kind of opportunity afforded by being part of a small and nimble nonprofit.

Bonus question: You’re big into music and your wife into theater: what’s a great cultural outing in Cincinnati?

Funny you should ask, my hobby for 2018 is opening and managing a modern jazz venue. We’re bringing jazz to a renovated space in Northside called Liberty Jazz Lab. Our grand opening is February 10th and we’re bringing in John Raymond and Real Feels to kick off what will be an amazing line up of talented artists. Come join us! Find out more at

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