The Evolve Health Alliance: How it formed and why leaders are excited

Six healthcare organizations have formed a partnership to tackle issues such as employee well-being, diversity and inclusion, and leadership development.

Members of the recently formed Evolve Health Alliance say the coalition offers a much-needed chance to grow and learn from each other.

The alliance includes six health systems: AdventHealth in Florida; Atrium Health of Charlotte, N.C.; Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Mich.; Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City, Utah; Northwell Health in New York; and OhioHealth, Columbus, Ohio.

The systems are teaming up and working on initiatives to improve staff well-being, diversity and inclusion and professional development for leaders. They announced the formation of the alliance last month.

Matt Kurth, deputy people officer at Northwell, said he’s excited about the possibilities of gaining and sharing insights with leaders from the other health systems.

“We now have a partner in these six organizations where we can learn from each other,” Kurtz said.

The Evolve Health Alliance’s origins stem from the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. At the time, Northwell was overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. Some Northwell team members were getting infected as well.

“We were encountering pretty significant staffing challenges,” Kurth recalled.

Northwell reached out to other organizations to see if they could send some staff. Intermountain stepped up and sent 48 team members to Northwell. The added staff helped care for patients but also gave a boost to Northwell staff, helping them to understand they were not alone in the crisis.

“It did have an enormous morale impact,” Kurth said. The Intermountain staffers volunteering “to run to the fire, so to speak, was pretty amazing.”

Northwell returned the favor. When Intermountain experienced its surge of COVID-1o patients, Northwell sent some of its clinicians to help.

In addition to helping each other in a crisis, Kurth said Northwell and Intermountain employees learned lessons from each other.

“They said they learned a lot in managing a crisis and dealing with staffing challenges,” Kurth said. “When our team members went out there, we learned from them.”

Maxine Carrington, senior vice president and chief people officer at Northwell, serves as co-chair of the alliance. She said Intermountain offered important insights in convincing staff to get vaccinated. It came as New York state required healthcare workers to get vaccinated.

“It helped us refine our own program,” Carrington said. And she said the organizations continued to talk to each other throughout the crisis.

Those experiences spurred conversations about forming a partnership to help each other with other healthcare operations. “That was the genesis, learning from the two cohorts,” Kurth said.

Other healthcare organizations expressed interest, and the six systems came together to form the Evolve alliance. None of the systems are competing with each other in the same markets, which helps increase the desire to help each other.

Carrington talked about the benefits of working together to tackle common problems and help chart a new course for healthcare. She spoke enthusiastically about the goal of creating a world-class experience for team members and delivering on the mission of supporting patients and communities.

“We’ve been saying, innovate or die,” she said.

Heather Brace, senior vice president and chief people officer of Intermountain, serves as co-chair of the alliance. When the alliance was first announced, Brace said in a news release,  “We know this alliance will help us evolve policies, practices and initiatives that ultimately benefit our patients and the communities we serve.”

Carrington said employee wellness is a big topic of discussion and interest. Many doctors and nurses have struggled with burnout and mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of us can point to the resources we have,” Carrington said. “How do we get folks who are resistant to use those resources?”

“We want to tackle those sticky issues,” she said.

The alliance is also focusing on a few key areas: diversity, equity, and inclusion: the workforce of the future; and executive leadership training.

In the area of diversity and inclusion, Northwell is a recognized leader. For two years in a row, Northwell Health was named the nation’s best health system for diversity by DiversityInc. Still, Carrington said she welcomed the chance to see how the other systems are undertaking efforts to improve at diversity and inclusion.

“We try to maintain a level of humility,” she said. “We want to keep learning.”

When asked if the alliance could be a step toward a merger with Intermountain or other members of the coalition, the Northwell leaders said that wasn’t the objective.

“It’s about learning from each other,” Kurth said. “That is the extent of it.”

Intermountain President and CEO Marc Harrison said in a recent interview with Chief Healthcare Executive he didn’t see any new mega-deals happening in the future, especially as Intermountain just completed the merger with SCL Health earlier this month.

“Right now our pipeline’s pretty full and we do not have any mega-mergers on the horizon,” Harrison said. “But we’ll look very carefully at our opportunities starting in the very short term.”

For now, the members of the alliance are setting up roundtable discussions and other learning opportunities. The alliance allows leaders to visit the other institutions and see how they work, which Kurth described as an invaluable learning opportunity.

Kurth said he appreciates having the opportunity to reach out to other members of the group in tackling a problem.

“That gives me an immense amount of comfort to know there’s a lifeline I can reach out to,” he said.