Aventria has been facilitating collaborations for 25 years. This is a back-of-the-envelope approach to operationalize a collaboration.
1. Define the problem/use case you are trying to solve by collaborating.
Alleviate consistent points of conflict that negatively impact patient care or clinician burnout.
Gang up against a common foe in the marketplace.
Reduce patient costs by setting up preferred arrangements with high-value providers.
Help streamline the patient journey and/or care transitions.
2. Whittle down your aspiration to one that only requires two parties and the fewest individuals possible on your side and theirs.
The fewer cooks in the kitchen or seats at the table, the better at the beginning. We say for every stakeholder you add, multiply by 10 how long whatever you’re doing is going to take. So, start small, get early success, then add people and organizations from there.
3. Cool your jets. Build a relationship and trust before you talk about anything too scary or time consuming for either party.
First of all, simply having a relationship and building trust might solve 75% of your problems.
Second, if you skip this foundational step, the odds stack against your collaboration succeeding.
4. Start small.
Build your relationship and trust by working together to come up with a phase 1 solution that does not require much effort or change management on the part of either party. Define success carefully so you can celebrate when you achieve it.
Do not skip this step. You need an early win that will create momentum.
The collaborative goal might be to define proactive business rules, heuristics, or at a minimum, align on guiding principles that are used every time your two organizations/departments need to interface.
5. Find your counterparts and reach out directly to them.
Identify people who are on the same page as you, and don’t waste your time on those who haven’t yet “crossed the chasm” (that was a Geoffrey Moore reference).
The best path to a handshake and results is to find your counterpart/peer at the other party who is experiencing equal but opposite pain due to the lack of collaboration.
You might know who that person(s) is already, but if not, find them on LinkedIn. It can be a “Hey, I think we may serve some of the same patients/members/people. Let’s chat/let’s see if there’s a way we can streamline [insert point of friction here].” Or just “It might be good to meet you because …”
Don’t call some CEO or CFO or someone removed from the problem/use case thinking you’ll work from the top down.
Doctors and everybody else can certainly talk directly to other doctors and everybody else. Communications and relationships do not need to be intermediated by somebody in some office somewhere upstairs ten degrees of separation removed from the problems multiple patients are having. (Watch HIPAA if you’re naming names, of course.)
6. Be proactive.
Sometimes, healthcare entities try to do things patient by patient reactively. It is inefficient, needlessly time consuming, and stressful when important aspects of patient care aren’t standardized. I’m not just talking about clinical standardization right now. There are plenty of examples where operational workflows are equally chaotic, done differently by every clinician or even for every patient.
It is possible to be proactive. Consider what trap many patients are falling into and then fix that thing … ahead of time. This avoids, for example, the front desk calling in fire drill mode time after time. Whatever is causing multiple patients difficulty, get with the other party and try to sort it out.
For example, if lots of referrals are going back and forth between two provider organizations, figure out how to operationalize working together better.
7. When/if looking to scale, get real. No one is going to get the buy-in from their organization to collaborate unless the organizational WIIFM (what’s in it for me) is front and center.
Never is this more crushingly true than in the healthcare industry. You can’t just go in and say it’s good for patients.
Let me underline this point with a quote from a Substack entitled “I wasted $40k on a fantastic startup idea.” Here’s the quote:
“It had been a bit of a working assumption of mine ... that if you could improve the health of the patients then, you know, [organizations] would [go] for that.”
Yeah. No, they won’t … unless the organizational WIIFM resonates.
You have to figure out how what you want to do on behalf of patients helps your organization and the other party achieve some organizational strategic imperative or pillar or whatever they call it this fiscal year.
Go ahead and start the story with the patient benefit, but you have to figure out how doing right by the patient will improve revenue, HCAHPS scores, quality metrics, star ratings; improve predictable spend; reduce shock claims; avenge a competitor and steal their market share; gang up against a common enemy; improve OR utilization; etc.
Wow, this is paradoxical to the whole idea of lower total cost of care, you might say. And it could be if achieving some revenue-centric business goal is the only goal or the primary goal. But if you can fold your patient-centric collaboration idea into a PowerPoint slide with an organizational imperative as the headline, you’ll have a shot of getting your way.
Personally, I aim for impact; and impact means reaching more patients than it’s possible to reach if a solution only appeals to those with a true mission to improve patient care. Sadly, this is a vanishingly small percentage of the people who work in many healthcare organizations at this time.
8. Need an ace up your sleeve? Start talking about the legacy we will leave behind.
If the conversation stalls, start talking about the healthcare system we want to leave behind to our children and grandchildren. What do we need our organization(s) to look like in 25 years to align with that vision? What little things can we do now to being to point toward a future we can be proud of?
Listen to the Relentless Health Value podcast with David Muhlestein PhD, JD (EP364) for more on this.
Stacey Richter, Co-President In addition to hosting Relentless Health Value, Stacey is co-president of QC-Health, a benefit corporation finding cost-effective ways to improve the health of Americans. She is also co-president of Aventria Health Group.
Making a difference in patient care by helping patients, providers, and payers collaborate on shared priorities