It’s a little early to come up with a word of the year for the healthcare industry, but I already have a nomination: partnership.
In the first few weeks of 2023, there’s been a flurry of announcements by industry players of all sizes and types involving partnerships related to community health equity efforts, improved access to behavioral health services and workforce expansion and training opportunities.
It’s all very high-level and sounds well-meaning. But in almost all cases, the announcements haven’t contained many specifics. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details—the individual and shared goals, the resources committed, the decision-making authority, the financial investment and payoff and how that’s split between the parties.
The pairings shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s poised to be a difficult year for many segments of the industry. By finding a suitable dance partner, players may be able to share costs while proceeding with strategies that will—we can hope—improve access to and delivery of healthcare.
But beyond that, I keep coming back to the word “partnership” and what seems like its overuse. For instance, if sending some job functions outside a hospital’s four walls qualifies as a partnership, then the dry cleaners is my very occasional partner.
Another topic for discussion: What happens to these arrangements when the industry’s financial footing is less shaky and players potentially return to a strategy of going it alone? Do the partners untangle and wind down their work, creating tumult inside organizations and letting the initiatives that produced tangible results fall by the wayside?
Let’s hope the health systems and companies entering these partnerships are looking long-term, not just for a bandage that can be ripped off when times are better. True, thoughtful partnerships will benefit the organizations putting them together, the customer and the industry.