Healthcare News & Insights

Keys to creating effective hospital partnerships

The traditional way for hospitals to work with other facilities has always been a merger. But nowadays, mergers come with a great deal of scrutiny. Because of this, hospitals have started looking at unique ways to work closely with neighboring facilities. 

medical-team-conferenceRecent big hospital mergers have received negative attention, with critics saying they create monopolies in many areas, limiting patients’ choices for careand even driving up costs.

Silver Cross Hospital, located in Illinois, took a hard look at the drawbacks to mergers and decided to take an alternate approach. The facility’s efforts are described in a recent article from Harvard Business Review.

The hospital had success with clinical partnerships before, reaching out to other facilities with more expertise in certain areas to provide better care. Previously, Silver Cross had established a relationship with Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago where Lurie oversees the Silver Cross pediatric inpatient program and provides pediatric neonatologists.

Its next goal, per the Harvard Business Review piece: Improve rehabilitation services for patients. Because the hospital wasn’t as successful as it wanted to be in this area, it approached the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) and asked for help.

RIC has long been known as one of the best rehab facilities in the country. At first the facility acted as a consultant for Silver Cross, but the hospitals later created a special arrangement that allowed both facilities to profit from inpatient income.

Result: Silver Cross saw big improvements in the rehabilitation care it provided patients.

The hospital used the lessons it learned from this successful partnership to create even stronger partnerships with other facilities, including the University of Chicago Medicine for oncology care and Northwestern Memorial Hospital to improve its stroke care.

6 steps to success

To make these partnerships successful, Silver Cross used five key strategies:

  1. Have joint operating committees that meet on a regular basis. Representatives from Silver Cross and RIC meet each quarter to discuss how well the partnership is working in terms of improving care quality and efficiency. It helps the team bounce around new ideas and make tweaks to improve operations.
  2. Be willing to compromise. Like any team venture, it’s critical to take any feedback given and make adjustments if necessary. Example: When staffing levels were too low to maintain the patient volume needed to make its oncology partnership a success, Silver Cross agreed to bring on more employees.
  3. Create clear roles. From the start, all employees involved in the partnership must be fully aware of their responsibilities, as well as to whom they’ll report on a daily basis. There should be no question about how the arrangement will affect their duties.
  4. Make sure there are direct communication channels between top executives. CEOs from each hospital Silver Lake partners with talk to each other on a regular basis, whether it’s to get opinions on suggested action steps or just to check in on their progress. This helps executives stay in the loop about any pending decisions, and gets them made faster.
  5. Promote a culture of shared values between each organization. Allowing partnering organizations to take an active role in daily operations is key to creating a shared culture that emphasizes safety and quality. Representatives from each partner hospital participate in regular training to promote patient safety. They also use Silver Cross’ system for reporting incidents and participate in the facility’s daily patient-safety huddle.

Hospitals can use these guidelines if they’re thinking of working with other facilities to improve care delivery or coordination of care without going through the hassle of a merger.

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