In honor of National Hospital Week, let’s take a moment to reflect upon and salute the evolving, ever-challenging role hospitals play in our lives, our communities, our country and our healthcare system – all in an industry buffeted by the shifting winds of reform.

Today, hospitals small, large, teaching, community, urban, rural and disproportionate share, as well as academic medical centers, are not only bearing the burden of reform that these providers so desperately support, but they are also acting as the sun in a solar system that consists of accountable care organizations.

Hospitals are the happy places expecting parents go when their families are expanding; they are the go-to places when a loved one is having chest pains or is injured in an accident; and they are the last line of defense for individuals who are challenged with diagnoses of cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening conditions. But they are also the anchor and the draw for physicians who want to be able to deliver excellent patient care, primary care and specialty care, with the confidence they are wholly supported by the teams of professionals who comprise the staff of a hospital – an organization that gives physicians support and resources to ensure optimum-quality care; the technology, sophistication and education that support best-practice, evidence-based medicine; and the systems to ensure that they can adequately direct, manage and monitor the care of patients who need hospital services.

Hospitals are the organizations that, as of now, are not yet realizing the benefits of sharing risk and working collaboratively in communities with physicians and other providers to ensure that patients seek hospital care only as a last resort, because their health and well-being are well managed by their primary care physicians and because patients have easy access to the resources, tools and education to prevent disease and/or manage risk. Hospitals bear the burden of ensuring that they have everything they need when patients and physicians need them, even if the hospitals themselves don’t have the resources or patient need to cover their costs.

Hopefully, this will change as reform allows provider organizations to share the responsibility and the resources that will reduce cost while ensuring easy access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.

Until then, let’s still appreciate the people who keep hospitals running – from the physicians and nurses who collaborate to deliver excellent care, to the housekeeping staff, maintenance teams and dietary staff that ensure that patients, visitors and staff have the best possible experience wherever they are in the organization.

Hospitals are communities, employers, and engines of health and healing, and while their role is changing, they will always be respected and vital parts of any health delivery system.