Clint Maun, CSP
Embracing partnerships, both internally and externally, is critical for success in today’s complex world of healthcare. The old maxim that says "if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together," recognizes the value of bringing together expertise to achieve a common goal (Global Giving Matters).
Internally, partnerships between professionals and ancillary direct care and support, between shifts, and between departments are necessary for the operation of business in an effective and efficient manner. If a problem between two departments, shifts or functionalities is creating difficulties with business flow, customer satisfaction or revenue, the involved players need to come together to form partnerships that will remove the stumbling blocks. If internal partnerships do not already exist, the action teams necessary to establish them and implement their operation need to be assembled.
External partnerships also bring benefits to your organization. "Barriers between companies, which used to be solid and absolute, are now permeable" (Kotelnikov). For instance, everyone benefits if you team up with the union as a partner rather than battle it as an evil enemy. The union can bring ideas to the table that meet both their needs and yours: consistent delivery of quality service, peaceful co-existence, a well-trained work force and continuity of care. Likewise, forming partnerships with vendors, rather than continually wasting valuable time and energy shopping around to save nickels, can generate long-term benefits. People who will deliver on time for a set price in a guaranteed and honest method will boost, not break, the bottom line.
Partnerships with other healthcare providers should be part of how you do business. Available programs in the market place need to be examined to determine how forming partnerships can enhance both your programs and theirs. Hospitals need to partner with home care agencies, nursing homes and other programs of health delivery rather than trying to exclude or own all of them. Nursing homes must look seriously at partnering with other nursing homes, based on specialty niches. Surgery programs, outpatient programs, homecare, hospice-all areas of healthcare-can benefit from partnerships. When partners bring their areas of expertise to the table, organizations enhance "their technical and operational resources, [and thereby] . . . save time and boost productivity by not having to develop their own from scratch" (Kotelnikov). Each organization has its own capabilities and expertise to bring to the partnership for the benefit of all.
While it is still necessary to be competitive, carving out a distinct niche for your organization and providing a product or service that outshines the competition, one must also recognize how partnerships enhance programs. Bringing your expert niche together with that of another organization frees up resources that would otherwise be eaten up in reinventing the wheel. Partnerships also provide valuable flexibility that "allows partners to work together to assess a mutual concern" and focus resources where they are most needed (U.S. Department of Labor). The resulting benefits are a boon to patients and the community as well as to the organization.
To utilize partnerships to their fullest, they must be an integral piece of your strategic plan. The partnership plan needs to address who is critical as you move forward into your business strategy. Who needs to be a partner? Who needs to be excluded? With whom do you need to create a business alliance, whether internally in your own organization or externally with other healthcare providers?
Many organizations today, including government agencies, have incorporated partnerships into their strategic plans. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes that as its "mission has become broader and more complex, it is increasingly beneficial to work with partners, including other federal and state agencies as well as private oversight organizations" (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The Worker Education and Training Program of the national government has four sections to the core of its strategic plan, the first one being "partnerships" (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences). And there is undoubtedly good reason that about "80 percent of the [Bill and Melinda Gates] foundation’s grant-making in the area of global health is undertaken with strategic partners" (Global Giving Matters).
Remember that along with their expertise, all individuals involved in a partnership effort must bring to the table their accountability and responsibility for success. It is critical that "all participants agree to work together to achieve a common purpose or undertake a specific task and to share risks, responsibilities, resources, competencies and benefits" (Kotelnikov). One person, one department, one organization cannot carry the burden of accountability. Everyone involved must shoulder responsibility.
Today’s healthcare organizations cannot stand alone. Attempting to maintain a free- standing position is risky unless you own everything in the kingdom or queendom, have all the power and influence, or are the only player around and can do everything for everybody. Being an isolated entity no longer works in the world of healthcare. In today’s business climate, organizations need to craft partnership strategies and include them as essential elements in strategic business plans and initiatives. Once the plan is created, it must be actualized, with defined roles, responsibilities and viable outcomes that will be generated from this partnership.
"Global Giving Matters, Part 1: Crafting Partnerships for Vaccinations and Healthcare-The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation." The Synergos Institute/World Economic Forum. 2004. The Synergos Institute. June 2004. http://www.synergos.org/globalgivingmatters/features/0401gates.htm
Kotelnikov, Vadim. "Building Strategic Partnerships: Do What You Can Do Best and Partner For the Rest." Ten3 Business e-Coach. 2004. Ten3 East- West. June 2004. http://www.1000venturescom/business_guide/partnerships_main.html
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Worker Education and Training Program Strategic Plan. July 2003. June 2004. http://www.niehs.nih.gov/wetp/about/plan.htm
United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration. OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP). June 1, 2004. June 2004. http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/partnerships/index.html