Partnerships are ubiquitous across industries, and especially prevalent in the healthcare ecosystem. The number of Healthcare merger and acquisition (M&A) deals hit a record high in 2018 at 1,100+. As of publishing this piece, 17 notable Healthcare M&A deals have closed since January 1, 2019 alone. Non-M&A provider partnerships are also widespread and remarkably varied in structure and context: Atlantic Health System and MedExpress, Cleveland Clinic and Luye Medical Group (based in Shanghai), Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan. Examples abound of organizations partnering to gain clinical expertise, expand geographic footprint and access, realize operational efficiencies, and serve more patients.
Forum was asked to support the development of a population health management program between two provider partner organizations, separated by 2,600+ miles, an ocean, and a time zone. Success required sharp focus on the core components of successful partnerships.
Partnering organizations need to create the right environment to incubate, grow and sustain the program. When successful, they accelerate progress toward a shared “North Star”. Without appropriate structure, leadership, and alignment, partnerships become ineffective.
The critical success factor is “how” the partnership is initiated; difficulties become common without a solid foundation. How do our individual goals align in shared priorities? How will we work together? How will we be stewards of our resources? How will we communicate internally and with the community? How will we approach difficult decisions? How do we learn and grow together? How will we manage the details? How do we start? Addressing each question transparently sets the foundation.
How is an effective program built between partner organizations?
Creating an environment to incubate, grow, and sustain a complex program requires several critical components. Transparency while building these elements minimizes ambiguity and creates trust. To build an effective program:
Establish a joint steering committee. Empower leaders from both organizations to drive toward collective success by developing a ‘program culture’ which communicates vision, provides oversight, and assesses outcomes.
Develop and communicate clear vision, goals, and expected outcomes. Enable the team to prioritize efforts and promote decision-making aligned with overarching purpose through shared, and well understood, expectations.
Employ an agile approach. Allow quick action and progress via an agile cadence for planning, implementation, and performance reporting of work efforts.
Create a scalable and realistic resource structure. Encourage sharing of expertise, without one individual being overwhelmed with demands, through a resource structure that flexes with program needs and leverages collective knowledge (potentially through dyad leads).
Measure progress. Enable quick reaction and course correcting by defining key performance indicators, regularly measuring progress, and sharing expertise and lessons learned.
Empower dedicated change champions. Inspire a growth and change mindset by identifying change champions to support the extended team to overcome barriers and maintain progress.
What are the results of a well-structured and -managed partnership program?
Implementing these critical components results in an environment that enables partners to achieve their unique definition of success. Characteristics of such an environment include:
A unified team with common vision, goals, outcomes, approach, language, and community voice.
Outcomes focus with a relentless pursuit and measurement of progress to shared goals.
Quick to action augmenting ‘gut’ decisions with rapid data-driven validation (think months, not years) and avoiding ‘analysis paralysis’.
Clear accountability especially during implementation and external communication phases.
Sustained energy for the longevity of the program, even amidst ambiguity and obstacles.
How does Forum help organizations develop partnerships and programs?
Forum supports partnership efforts through confirmatory due diligence, aligning boards of directors and executives, strategic planning to set the course, project implementation to bring strategies to reality, and data and analytics to make data-driven decisions and apply insights.
Stephanie Fiano is an experienced management consultant who works to improve the healthcare ecosystem where she helps her clients make critical data-driven decisions. Stephanie is skilled in strategic planning, go-to-market analysis, product development, stakeholder engagement and implementation.
Forum Solutions is a management consulting company that works with Seattle’s business and nonprofit leaders to build and implement effective strategies for transformative growth and sustainable results. Forum offers clients the right skills for every job: strategic expertise, lean execution, and agile resourcing – improving businesses at any level – from the executive suite to the individual contributor.