Ohio Hospital Association and Bricker & Eckler collaborate.

By Mike Abrams and Jim Flynn

The Wright Brothers gave us wings. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield gave us sweet ice cream treats. Batman and Robin kept the city of Gotham safe. There is no question that great, unique partnerships change the world.

That is exactly what we set out to do when the Ohio Hospital Association united with the law firm of Bricker & Eckler LLP. While a nonprofit hospital association and a law firm might appear to be unlikely bedfellows, we have built a partnership that is advancing life-changing and life-saving work in community health.

Last year, in honor of its centennial, the Ohio Hospital Association created the OHA Institute for Health Innovation to leverage the long-standing work of several research and community health efforts. OHA launched the Institute to focus efforts of the association and member hospitals on accelerating health care quality, integrating transitions of patient care and advancing community health. Bricker & Eckler stepped up to become a founding centennial partner of the OHA Institute, making a significant financial contribution to fund its work.

The OHA Institute has launched a campaign to reduce severe sepsis and septic shock mortality in Ohio by 30 percent over the next two years. The deadly blood infection impacts about 34,000 Ohioans annually. Beyond the cost in patient lives, sepsis cases also have a grave impact on precious health care resources, costing between $20,000 and $57,000 per case. Eighty percent of sepsis cases arrive at the hospital door, so the effort focuses on community detection, education and rapid hospital treatment protocols.

Additionally, the OHA Institute launched a series of initiatives leveraging hospitals' role in the delivery of 139,000 new Ohioans each year to address the state's infant mortality crisis. With intense efforts from Ohio hospitals and numerous community health organizations, Ohio's infant mortality rate has improved from No. 47 of 50 states in 2012 to No. 40 in recently released 2014 data.

The leaders at OHA and Bricker & Eckler are proud of the positive impact of our partnership. We encourage other CEOs, leaders and organizations to unite to form their own partnerships to foster healthy communities.

While every partnership is unique, they all require the proper mindset, hard work, dedication and trust to make true community improvement. If your organization wants to improve the health of the community, please consider the following four success factors essential to a prosperous partnership:

Shared Values. Every successful collaboration has one thing at the core-shared values. Before investing in the OHA Institute, Bricker had a business relationship with OHA for many years. Not only did we know that we have the same level of commitment to professional excellence, but we also clearly understood that our values and hearts are aligned.

Think Big. Don't be afraid to think big. For us, Ohio's health challenges are escalating and demand big ideas and solutions to make significant impact-fast. To facilitate this out-of-the-box thinking, we recruited innovative health care thinkers and doers from around the state to serve on the OHA Institute's board of trustees.

Involve Others. Even the strongest partnership cannot go at a huge challenge alone. To improve the health of our community, we know we must leverage the strength and reach of OHA's 220 member hospitals. Through the OHA Institute, we have armed our members with a plethora of resources and services so they can continue to work towards the best outcomes for patients.

Measure Your Success and Opportunities. At the onset of the partnership, determine how you are going to measure your success. The healthcare industry has significant data to track improvements and identify where opportunities remain. In the case of the OHA Institute's sepsis work, OHA gathers significant clinical data from participating Ohio hospitals and analyzes the data to determine areas for improvement.

Mike Abrams joined OHA in February 2012 as president and CEO. He leads a team of 65 associates, supports a 20-member Board of Trustees, serves on a variety of healthcare and hospital task forces and committees, and works with more than 2,000 members of seven OHA professional societies. Learn more at ohiohospitals.org

Jim Flynn is a partner in and chair of Bricker & Eckler's Healthcare group. His general health care practice focuses on transactional, regulatory, governance, reimbursement-related, health planning and long-term care matters. Learn more at bricker.com