By Byron Jobe, Vizient Chief Executive Officer
A series of unlikely partnerships changed the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two University of Pennsylvania researchers had never met until they struck up a conversation at the photocopier one day in 1998. But after a few minutes of chatting, Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman realized they were both interested in experimenting with messenger RNA (mRNA). A decades-long partnership followed, and their work ultimately led to the development of COVID-19 vaccines (and deservedly, the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine).
It wasn't just these two scientists. Companies from across the globe worked together to develop, test and distribute vaccines. Instead of trying to beat the competition, each leaned into their strengths and partnered for everything else. These groundbreaking partnerships got the vaccines across the finish line when we all needed them most.
But COVID-19's ripple effect didn't stop with vaccines. The competitive landscape has changed for many providers. Margins are tight, disruptors are looming and new digital tools often pose more questions than answers.
So, what can providers do? If we've learned anything from the pandemic, it's that transformational work can't happen in a silo. Approaching today's challenges differently means approaching partnerships differently.
Here are three ways we're seeing providers successfully leverage the power of strategic partnerships.
Enhancing the patient experience
Providers are experiencing rapid changes to how and where care gets delivered, so organizations that tailor technology to their long-term strategy will have the best results over time. Patients also benefit from these investments when digital health solutions meet them where and how they would like to receive care.
As a result, remote patient monitoring is on the rise. Nearly 60% of health system leaders indicate they have implemented or are in the process of implementing remote monitoring programs, according to a recent Vizient survey of more than 100 leaders representing 92 health systems across the country.
Baptist Health's partnership with a digital health company that makes at-home self-exam kits enhances their patient experience while providing more accessible care. The kits connect to a virtual provider, allowing them to take precise measurements of vital signs for accurate diagnosis and treatment. The kit also links to patients' electronic health record (EHR) and the system includes educational resources to help patients use the device.
Similarly, Intermountain Health partnered with provider data management company Kyruus to revamp its digital patient experience. Using Kyruus' ProviderMatch platform, Intermountain will provide accurate and up-to-date provider and appointment information across its website, mobile app and internal directories. This centralized access hub allows patients to conveniently schedule care while significantly reducing the time providers spend on manual data management.
It's no secret that the healthcare industry continues to lag other industries in consumer choice and engagement. Traditional healthcare players can partner with technology solutions to address weak spots in their patient experience strategy.
Value-based care gains momentum
As the fee-for-service environment continues to become more challenging, providers are rethinking their approach to value-based care (VBC). However, these arrangements typically take several years to show a return on investment.
Enter Risant Health, a new nonprofit formed by Kaiser Foundation Hospitals with an emphasis on VBC. In the spring of 2023, Geisinger Health announced it would be the first health system to join Risant. The deal is subject to regulatory review, but if it goes through, it could be a major step forward for value-based care adoption across the country.
Risant Health provides a needed cash infusion for VBC investments, allowing health systems to approach these arrangements with less financial risk. It also enables technology across its partner health systems, speeding up implementation of the digital tools needed to make VBC models successful.
We've all heard about VBC for years, but Risant Health's partnership approach could be a big step forward.
Embracing disruptors as partners
New market entrants have consistently gained traction, producing nearly 20 million patient encounters since 2021, according to Sg2 analysis. This includes areas where traditional healthcare players have dominated, like long-term care, and ways incumbents have come up short, such as value-based care. But providers don't need to fight every market disruptor—sometimes you can embrace the competition.
For example, providers with digital offerings can compete with Amazon's e-commerce healthcare marketplace. Ochsner Health System teamed up with Hims & Hers, a direct-to-consumer digital health company, to give patients with chronic conditions direct access to clinicians and digital medicine programs. This allows patients to access care for conditions Hims & Hers doesn't treat, while exposing Ochsner to a new patient base.
Competition is fierce, which requires health systems to step up their game in nearly every capacity from payer contracting to workforce recruiting. But looking for opportunities to collaborate can be a win-win-win for providers, disruptors and patients. Not all competition is a zero-sum game.
The future of healthcare is partnership
Our world may look very different if those responsible for developing and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine had not fully embraced the power of strategic partnerships. Today, successful partnerships start with both sides assuming some level of risk and acknowledging that many of the most important problems facing health systems are not solo ventures. They require us to operate differently, they challenge our assumptions and they compound success.
It can be tempting to follow the traditional path of owning as many steps in the care continuum as possible. But as sites of care, cost of care and complexity of care continue to shift, the reality is no single entity can address all of these factors alone. The most successful organizations know strategic partnerships aren't just an option—in some cases, they're the best path forward.
About the author
Byron Jobe is chief executive officer of Vizient. Jobe has broad and diverse leadership experience in the healthcare industry, including in the areas of strategy, operations and finance. Prior to joining Vizient more than 10 years ago, Jobe served in a variety of roles at Healthvision, VHA, Baylor Scott & White Health and PricewaterhouseCoopers.