Profiling a New Executive Role: VP for Accountable Communities

By Melaney Arruda

As population health and value-based healthcare models have gained traction, there has been a realization in the healthcare field that a more community-based approach to healthcare could not only help to control and reduce the cost of care, but could also assist in confronting other social needs which may contribute to poor health outcomes. In 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new initiative for its Accountable Health Communities Model, granting funding to 29 organizations to promote clinical-community collaboration in addressing unmet health-related needs. Health systems can benefit from partnering with community-based organizations (CBOs) to develop and deploy programs and resources to increase healthcare access, create health equity, and to address social determinants of health.

The Need for a New Role

As healthcare organizations begin to partner with CBOs, it is incumbent upon leadership to engage community partners, develop new programs, improve upon existing programs, and track and measure success of programs and initiatives. Having a dedicated Vice President or Executive Director level role overseeing this department is essential for success across these varied needs and responsibilities. Therefore, we are seeing the rise of the position of Vice President for Accountable Communities, which may also be titled VP of Community Impact, VP of Community Collaborations, or VP of Community Health.

Ideal candidates for such a position must have a true passion for public health, as well as:

  • Experience in developing programming to address specific social health-related needs, such as housing, transportation, and food insecurity, among many others;
  • Knowledge of how to build partnerships between distinct organizations and how to lead through influence to accomplish common goals;
  • Visibility within a community, comfortable connecting with stakeholders at all levels;
  • A strong grasp of population health data and analysis, as well as a metrics-driven approach to monitor program success;
  • Experience in grant writing;
  • Cultural awareness and broad experience in leading initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Success Factors

This position typically reports to the Chief Operating Officer, Chief Medical Officer, or Chief Population Health Officer, depending on the organizational structure. The VP for Accountable Communities oversees director and manager level staff who are responsible for specific programs, data and analytics staff, grant writing staff, and administrative assistants. Community health workers, clinical staff, behavioral health professionals and social workers are also typically part of an Accountable Communities department.

Ultimately, for this role to be successful, several elements must be in place:

  • C-suite buy-in, including from the CEO, and a strategy in place to define success;
  • Technology resources to track and report successes and continuing needs;
  • Analytics teams to assist in collection of data;
  • Financial resourcing, including a budget to be able to build programs and support CBOs;
  • Grant writing and allocation support where necessary.
Keys to Recruiting

The key for recruitment for a role like this is to have a true commitment to the development of community-based care models. More than grant allocation and funding, organizations should be prepared to invest in the necessary infrastructure to create a functional department. Qualified candidates will want assurances that the organization is dedicated to success in this area.

Candidates will also seek to understand the reporting structure and their ability to be strategic within the role. Leaders for Accountable Communities departments should have the necessary resources to build the department, but also the independence to develop and drive community-based relationships. As organizations look to work more collaboratively with community-based organizations to solve critical public health problems, look for the VP for Accountable Communities role to become more prominent.