For Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the recent decision to help a Chinese health system open a new hospital was years in the making.
Jiahui Health, a private system based in Shanghai, first reached out to Mass General in 2012 for advice on how to design a new facility and plan its overall operations. That relationship evolved over the years, and when Jiahui looked for a partner to help open its new 300-bed hospital, Mass General was the obvious choice.
"We've been working together for so long, both sides felt it was time for a broader relationship," said Greg Pauly, senior vice president of Mass General.
Under the agreement, Mass General will provide guidance on the structure of the facility, operations and governance, as well as expertise in clinical areas. Physicians from the Mass General Cancer Center will train their peers at Jiahui on best practices in cancer care. Nurses will establish programs focused on quality and patient safety. The new hospital is slated to open in October.
"For our faculty, these relationships get their intellectual juices flowing," Pauly said. "They start asking questions like, 'Why do we do that?' "
Mass General is one of several U.S. academic health systems that have forged agreements with foreign governments or organizations. The partnerships are viewed as an opportunity for U.S. systems to not only expand their brand overseas, but complement their missions as educators and speed acceptance of the latest clinical innovations. These international ventures also create an additional revenue stream in the wake of ever-shrinking reimbursement.
Launching services in foreign countries also presents challenges, requiring robust amounts of investment, planning and manpower to execute successfully. As a result, the international arena is still largely the domain of prestigious, multibillion-dollar academic health systems.