Editor's note: this is an abridged version of the Making Change podcast. You can listen to the extended interview here.
In mid-2000s, the two hospitals that provided most of the social services to residents of Lincoln, Neb., were grappling with a common problem: patients using their emergency rooms for nonemergency care.
To make matters worse, when one hospital would turn away a patient, that patient would often show up in the emergency room of the competing hospital.
Separately, the two hospitals—Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center and Bryan LGH Medical Center—approached Lori Seibel, chief executive of the Community Health Endowment, a Nebraska grant-making group.
Ms. Seibel knew she needed to work with both institutions to find a solution. And while it took nine months for the competitors to develop a plan, the results were impressive.
Now the hospitals flag patients who show up repeatedly for nonemergency care at either institution and give them counseling on affordable or free health-care programs.
As a result of the partnership, the cost of care for repeat emergency-room patients decreased by 75 percent, Ms. Seibel says. And patients are getting better care. Of 55 patients surveyed at the end of 2011 all had a primary-care physician within six months of enrolling in the counseling program.
In the latest episode of Making Change, Ms. Seibel explains how she approached this problem and how two competing organizations were able to collaborate on a way to solve an expensive problem.