Love means never having to say your sorry.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
But what constitutes a partnership between a healthcare provider and a vendor?
For one thing, vendors don't like to be called vendors. They prefer that their hospital, medical practice and group purchasing organization customers refer to them as suppliers. It sounds like a simple request, but it can help create an atmosphere of mutual respect necessary in a true give-and-take partnership.
On the buyers' side, healthcare providers are tired of commission-hungry sales representatives who seem intent on pushing product and bashing their competitors. In the reformed, cost-contained world of healthcare, providers seek suppliers that understand the new marketplace and can help customers achieve higher cost-efficiency.
"What we're talking about is narrowing a wide attitudinal gap," said Walter J. Unger, a Laguna Niguel, Calif.-based independent consultant. "It's an evolutionary process that will take years to close, but we need to start now."
Let's face it, the fee-for-service mentality generated a supplier philosophy fueled by manufacturing, merchandising, market share and margins. Meanwhile, the provider community was trapped in a wasteful, inefficient management maze. Those days are over, but some of the old ways are hard to change and that breeds contempt. Listen carefully and you'll hear a supplier complaining that providers "nickel-and-dime us, while they continue their frivolous management practices."
Unger says it's vital to begin the healing process by defining requirements for a successful partnership, setting ground rules and definitions, then overcoming the obstacles in creating successful provider-supplier relationships.
Others in healthcare have embarked on a similar quest. MODERN HEALTHCARE has reported on a number of interesting strategies and research projects by major buying groups, suppliers and hospital alliances. For today's lesson, we'll concentrate on the Society for Cardiovascular Management, which is determined to tackle the tensions between suppliers, physicians and healthcare administrators.
The first step took place last June in San Francisco when 70 executives met in an intense partnership summit. Unger and Amy Charette, coordinator of the Columbia/HCA Cardiovascular Management Network, were among the organizers. Suppliers were represented by such heavyweights as Eastman Kodak, Genentech and Cordis Corp. The provider side included administrators from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Ochsner Clinic, Millard Fillmore Health System and Presbyterian Healthcare Services.
Carolyn E. Skaff, immediate past president of the SCM, said the group was divided into clusters of 10. For nearly three hours, the discussion took off in the forms of pleas, questions, heated debate and an occasional nod of agreement. Some of the conclusions are listed in the accompanying chart.
Next month, the Grand Blanc, Mich.-based SCM will organize a similar partnership summit-this time adding physicians-during the concurrent annual meetings in New Orleans of the SCM, the American Society for Cardiovascular Professionals and the American College of Cardiologists.
Some of that discussion will undoubtedly focus on technology, which Unger says must have a long life, be upgradeable and have strong support by a stable supplier.
Nobody said this partnership stuff is going to be easy.