Collaboration is a favorite topic of mine, but one offshoot of collaboration I haven’t touched on much is learning collaboratives.  A learning collaborative takes collaboration into a more formal, but still relaxed, learning environment, bringing together practice teams to share ideas and find solutions to existing challenges. 

Some may recall the Mackinac Learning Collaborative (MLC), which was launched in Detroit in 2009-2010 with the goal of transforming primary care physicians’ offices into patient-centric practices. While our Patient Care Organization championed and led the effort, its success was due to the commitment of primary care practices and family residency training programs throughout SE Michigan who not only participated but did their homework between sessions and established collegial relationships with other MLC participants. The fact that many of these relationships are still thriving today remains among one of the most satisfying outcomes of the MLC.

The MLC was further buoyed by its guest speakers – thought leaders contributing big picture trends and insights on state and national initiatives. They weren’t paid speakers – and some sought out the MLC because they wanted to be part of an audience of 100+ physicians, behavioral health specialists, nurses, medical assistants, office administrators and healthcare executives that were changing healthcare in the trenches.   

I hope at this point I’ve piqued your curiosity about learning collaboratives (and maybe even have your regretting that you weren’t part of the MLC!) If so, you’re in luck. Furthering our goals of collaboration, our PCO is partnering with another PCO, west-Michigan based IHP, to offer the Moving Upstream Collaborative from September 2019 to June 2020 in either Detroit or Battle Creek.

Aimed at primary care physician offices – but also welcoming the broader community of caregivers, including pharmacists, home health agencies and even ambulance companies – the goals of the Moving Upstream Collaborative are to:

  • Move practices upstream to address the social determinants of health (#SDOH)
  • Reduce avoidable utilization of emergency departments, expensive testing and other unnecessary costs while increasing quality outcomes
  • Guide teams through the process of enhancing operational systems and workflows to support population-based care
  • Promote and support interprofessional team-based care
  • Better position practice for success in risk contracting

Which practice team members can/must attend?

  • Physician(s) – can be an Advanced Practice Provider
  • Care Manager(s) – employed or contracted
  • Practice Manager or practice administrator lead
  • Medical Assistant(s) and/or Nurse(s)
  • Community Health Worker

What’s the time commitment?

  • Full-day sessions start at 7:45 am with registration and breakfast; day ends at 4:30 pm.
  • Web-based meetings, held in off-months, start at 12:00 pm and end at 1:00 pm.
  • Attendance and participation at all sessions and phone calls is required.

What are my obligations/practice responsibilities?

  • Sign Memorandum of Understanding
  • Monthly data and narrative report
  • Commitment to quality improvement and practice transformation

This is not a money-making venture for MedNetOne or IHP, however there are financial incentives for those practice teams who attend. That’s because payors recognize the value of a learning collaborative in improving quality care and strengthening teams. CME and other continuing education credits are also available.  

If you or your practice team need a jolt of motivation to recharge your practice team approach, if you are looking to establish relationships with other primary care offices and teams, or if you simply want to add a meaningful and actionable experience to your healthcare career, it’s likely time for you to Move Upstream. For more information, email me at Those interested in joining IHP’s Moving Upstream Collaborative in Battle Creek should contact Tanya Gilliard at or (269) 425-7143.