by Gerald Zarlengo, MD, Chairman & CEO, COPIC Insurance Company
Featured in the March-April 2020 Colorado Medicine Colorado Medicine.
As our advocacy team was planning for 2020, a standard question came up, “How does COPIC support and improve health care outside the coverage and resources we provide our insureds?” Our answers meandered through long, detailed examples of legislative challenges and sharing our knowledge with other stakeholders throughout Colorado. Due to the complexity of health care, these responses went down a common path. People took the time to fully articulate our efforts, detailed the various obstacles and opportunities, and analyzed how they contribute to the overall good.
It was a good discussion, but it made me realize that the bigger challenge is distilling these complex ideas down to a straightforward explanation. After some back-and-forth that took this into consideration, we hit upon a simple description: COPIC’s external advocacy can be defined in the context of Three Cs – convening, collaborating and contributing.
Convening is about serving as a catalyst to connect diverse stakeholders who offer an array of perspectives. Getting the right people in the room is often the biggest challenge, but it is an essential step for examining an issue to better understand the different parts and to recognize how different interests can align or conflict with one another. This collective view generates insight and action beyond what occurs when individual organizations operate on their own.
COPIC’s wide network in health care allows us to bring together voices from physicians, nurses, medical specialty societies, rural health care experts, patient advocates, health care system executives, health insurance providers
and more. While technology has enhanced our ability to converse remotely, face-to-face interactions are critical to remind us that even though we are more connected than ever, our views can often be more fragmented and not informed by the valuable perspectives of others.
Collaborating focuses on utilizing the strengths and resources of those who come together to move ideas forward and develop the best possible solutions. I’ll admit, the term “collaboration” is often thrown around loosely in health care without much attention given to what it actually means. A recent Harvard Business Review article(1) noted, “One problem is that leaders think about collaboration too narrowly: as a value to cultivate but not a skill to teach.” I like this framing because it reminds us of the key skills needed to support effective collaboration: learn to listen (not just talk), practice empathy, be open to experimenting with others’ ideas, and allow judgment to give way to curiosity.
The article went on to say: “In successful collaborations, each person assumes that everyone else involved, regardless of background or title, is smart, caring and fully invested. That mindset makes participants want to understand why others have differing views, which allows them to have constructive conversations.” In health care, embracing this type of mindset is what will open us up to new, innovative thinking about how we address the challenges we face.
Contributing refers to how we apply our expertise and experience to support our partners. COPIC stands in a unique position where the medical and legal worlds intersect. This provides us with access to information, such as claims data and best practices, that is valuable in identifying potential risks and allows us to develop programs or resources to address these. However, this value is dependent on how well we disseminate our insight throughout the health care community. Every day, COPIC’s medical and legal experts come together to solve problems that our insureds encounter. We continue to take the information from these situations, analyze it on a broader level, and determine how we can contribute to improved care by sharing what we know with others.
The Three Cs represent a simple way to describe the complex work that COPIC and our partners engage in. It also represents one of the things I enjoy most about my role at COPIC – being able to see health care from a broader perspective. My view has expanded to be about “connecting the pieces” and understanding how decisions ripple through the health care system and impact providers and patients. And when we work together, the potential to accomplish great things moves from a lofty goal to a tangible reality.