Our Nov. 3 issue focusing on international healthcare suggests that overseas opportunities will become increasingly available to managers, clinicians, vendors, consultants and others involved in the U.S. healthcare system.
But with those opportunities comes the warning that American-style managed care and health system administration cannot simply be gift-wrapped and delivered.
Just because it plays in Peoria doesn't mean it can work in Pretoria, Paris or Prague. The lifestyle, economic climate and socio-political fabric of the U.S. have created a uniquely American healthcare system as big and bold as the nation itself. The Age of Imperialism is history. Other countries don't want our system shoved down their throats.
Many nations, however, seek ideas on how to contain healthcare costs, improve quality and manage efficiently. Some view privatization and competition as more effective than government control. The curious and the committed call stateside.
The success of such international healthcare endeavors will be determined by the attitude of Americans involved. An aggressive, forceful style may work on Wall Street and in hotly competitive domestic markets, but it will fail miserably overseas. Instead, our healthcare ambassadors should adopt a confident, diplomatic demeanor.
Preparation is key. Learning about the customs, values and habits of the host country's citizens is a must. When tackling the business challenge, forget about hierarchical decisionmaking and emphasize consensus-building techniques like study groups and discussion committees.
Finally, doing business overseas requires unlimited patience, a virtue lacking in many healthcare providers. What would take weeks to accomplish here might take months in another country.