There are good intentions and then there’s impact. To achieve both you need people like Enid Eckstein with the tenacity, expertise, network, and leadership to move the needle.
After 30 years as a senior official with 1199SEIU, Eckstein was ready for a change but she wasn’t sure exactly what that change should look like. While she had a broad range of financial, organizational and quality improvement expertise, not to mention extensive knowledge of the Massachusetts healthcare sector and political landscape, she didn’t have a string of degrees after her name in an industry where credentials matter.
To address these gaps, Eckstein enrolled in the Brown University Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership (EMHL) program.
The Brown program’s focus on business and healthcare, coupled with its work-friendly format, struck me as having the right ingredients for figuring out what I was going to do next. And I was right. My CCP wound up being the perfect vehicle for launching the next stage of my career.
After some false starts, she landed on a Critical Challenge Project (CCP) topic that changed the course of her career. She wanted to know whether hospitals in Massachusetts, post-ACA, were making upstream investments in healthcare as part of their hospital community benefits obligations.
Thanks to her network of colleagues, the state’s rich troves of data, and support in the form of challenging questions from her advisor, Eckstein was able to demonstrate that there had been little change in hospital investment in community benefit spending or the type of community benefit investments following the Massachusetts adoption of universal health care coverage. She was able to illustrate the lack of alignment and strategic investment in the social determinants of health (housing, education, food security.community safety).
Leveraging her CCP findings, Eckstein co-authored a paper with Tufts professor Paul Hattis, entitled “Hospitals Investing in Health,” published by Community Catalyst and funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. According to Eckstein,
Our report focused on aligning the overall regulatory and accountability framework between state and federal governments, increasing transparency of hospital planning and related activities, and putting forward some ideas for improving hospital engagement with community groups. It concluded with a set of policy recommendations to improve the alignment of multiple oversight agencies, to highlight and encourage investment in the social determinants of health and measures of how to gauge community engagement.
The report caught the eye of Attorney General Maura Healey who asked Eckstein and Dr. Hattis to be on the task force to rewrite the community benefits guidelines for non-profit hospitals. Eckstein along with others effectively used this position to shape the commission’s recommendations, released in February 2018.
In a recent CommonWealth article, Eckstein and Hattis applauded the new guidelines for addressing the concerns they outlined in their report.
We think the revised guidelines keep Massachusetts in the forefront of hospital community benefits thinking nationally; and although our state’s guidelines are voluntary, the communal ethic that exists across our state’s providers and local insurers tends to make our health care industry treat them with a fair amount of seriousness.
You can learn more about the MA Attorney General Office’s important accomplishments with its revised guidelines, as well as the work that is left to be done, in the Eckstein and Hattis CommonWealth article, Tracking hospital community investments.