We are in the midst of dramatic, unequivocal change. The locus and very nature of health care delivery are being rapidly redefined," said Jim Hinton, chairman of the American Hospital Association board of trustees and president and CEO of Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Albuquerque, N.M., during his investiture speech at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting last month. It was a theme that was repeated over and over during the meeting by hospital leaders, policymakers and political pundits.

Our associations with the word "hospital" are very personal. We tend to think of the place we welcomed new life, that offered hope or promised refuge in a time of crisis. The hospital of the future will continue to meet those needs, but in new ways and new locations.

Hospitals are moving from volume-based to value-based payment arrangements, engaging patients and families, community leaders, physicians and their own staffs to achieve the Triple Aim. And they are using evidence-based practices to eliminate preventable infections and complications and better manage chronic conditions and advanced illness. They are harnessing the power of information technology to better coordinate care and to empower patients. And they are partnering with government and community partners to fulfill unmet health and social needs in their communities to improve overall health and access to care when and where it's needed. And that's just the beginning.

"Times of historic challenge reveal the best in each of us and in our organizations," Hinton noted during his investiture. " … Simply stated, there has never been a generation of leaders that has been given an opportunity as we have today."

The AHA's Committee on Governance discussed this topic at its March meeting, looking at the long-term challenges and boards' readiness. At your next board meeting, ask yourselves: How will we redefine our organization in this new era of health care? What are we doing with the opportunity we've been given? How will we lead?

Bina Eggensperger (bina@blackfoot.net) is COG chair and a trustee of Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains, Mont.