Sanford Health charts global expansion
Sanford Health's international footprint is about to get a lot bigger.
The Sioux Falls, S.D.-based provider Tuesday announced an ambitious plan to expand into five new countries—Costa Rica, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Vietnam.
Sanford will operate in nine countries. The organization is also adding to its 23 clinics in Ghana and helping implement the country's first electronic medical record as well as increasing its presence in China.
"One of the major drivers is this shared-learning concept—to learn as an organization and create opportunities for our medical students, physicians and the rest of the staff as well as learn the challenges of delivering healthcare in different parts of the world and how to enable our partners to meet them," said Dr. Dan Blue, executive vice president of Sanford World Clinic, its 215-employee international healthcare arm that began in 2007. "These experiences are life-changing."
Large health systems across the country are growing their international portfolio. U.S. systems can expand their brand overseas to bolster their educational arms and develop or improve certain specialties. They can also expand their referral networks while helping other countries implement or expand their healthcare options.
In New Zealand, Sanford and OmniHealth plan to open a general practice clinic in February in Auckland's central business district.
Sanford is also working with Hermitage Medical Clinic in Dublin to establish a clinical research office that extends precision oncology services.
In Costa Rica, the health system is providing strategic and operational support to the Hospital Metropolitano health system as it continues to grow.
The organization is also collaborating with Victoria Healthcare in Vietnam to enhance clinical and healthcare management education programs for Victoria physicians, nurses and administrative staff.
In South Africa, Sanford is supporting the ongoing development of clinical research and education programs in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders at Stellenbosch University.
In China, the health system will provide oncology support for the Ciming Health Checkup Group, which will include a remote, physician-to-physician partnership. Sanford will expand beyond pediatric care at Ciming to include more personalized concierge service to include genetics and other therapies, Blue said, adding that the organization did not specify funding commitments.
China is trying to establish itself as a medical destination that attracts people from Southeast Asia, Europe and Russia, he said.
"It could provide Chinese cancer patients with the most advanced treatment to improve the survival rate and the quality of life of patients," Dr. Hu Bo, chairman of the board for Ciming Health Checkup Group, said in a statement.
Since 2015, Sanford patients have received stem cell therapies in the Munich-based hospital Isar Klinikum, where the organization has a minority stake. Sanford physicians have learned the stem cell therapy process by traveling overseas, which has helped the health system gain FDA approval for its stem cell therapy clinical trials, Blue said.
"It's a portal for our patients to go over there and seek care, but importantly it's a way to bring that research back to the U.S.," he said.
Other health systems with healthy bottom lines have been eying international expansion over the past few years. Cleveland Clinic partnered with Mubadala in the United Arab Emirates to open Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in 2015. UCLA Health partnered with R&F Properties in 2016 to development a Western-style hospital in Guangzhou, China. New Orleans-based Ochsner Health System recently partnered with the University of Queensland to open a medical school that will funnel medical students between the States and Australia. Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital guides operations, governance and physician education at Jiahui Health's 300-bed hospital in Shanghai.
"I think (these partnerships) are going to make the U.S. health systems think smarter about how they deliver care," said Joan Saba, a partner at NBBJ, the architecture firm that helped design Jiahui International Hospital. "The integration with technology and communication is something we are just starting to see—this is all for the greater good. To have an established health system come into a market and improve their care overseas and in the U.S., why not?"
As for Sanford, it will continue to identify three to five new partnerships each year.
"Challenges are partly what drive us, whether that is political, financial or otherwise; we see the world very similarly and have a desire to impact change and outcomes," Blue said. "Learning comes from rolling up our sleeves to go after those things together."
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