As we previously covered in our hospital expansion guide, expanding a hospital abroad is a challenging process, but a highly rewarding one. While companies in the healthcare sector that are selling products have a far more standard expansion process – with extra attention to regulation, of course, the landscape is a little different for hospitals. Hospitals don’t usually expand like regular businesses.
Hospital expansion can come in two forms: By opening new locations (which is often done at a regional or national scale) or, if we’re expanding internationally, through partnerships up with foreign institutions. If we want to scale globally, the latter strategy will be far smoother, less costly, and have a lower risk than that of opening a hospital in another country.
An international partnership can benefit our institution, being a path to more dynamic internal processes and healthier finances. As Becker’s Hospital Review notes:
“Hospitals that are able to provide training, management and other services to foreign groups find themselves in an opportune time to expand these services. In many cases, they not only expand the mission of the organization internationally but they also provide additional revenue opportunities. However, hospitals must be willing to commit serious resources to this pursuit in order to be successful.”
But, of course, the most important benefit of international partnerships is that it also brings quality healthcare to underserved communities.
In this post, we’ll focus on the strategy behind expanding a hospital: What are the most common models for international hospital partnerships? How can we make sure an international venture can be sustainable long-term?
Partnerships Between Low-Income Countries & High-Income Countries
Usually, hospital partnerships tend to be between an institution in a Low-Income Country (LIC), and an institution in a High-Income Country (HIC). The HIC provides resources and transmits best practices to the LIC, for the benefit of its population, while the LIC transmits knowledge and best practices to the HIC, while preventing eventual workforce shortages, and serving as an innovation-focused partner.
These partnerships usually serve as opportunities for both partners to learn from each other. It’s reported that HIC industry partners better learn to measure outcomes and be willing to adjust and to exercise cultural awareness. Meanwhile, LIC industry partners tend to learn to be pragmatic in their research and to simplify processes whenever possible. Both institutions, in their own way, have lots to learn from each other, so it’s always important to design a partnership plan that can benefit both parties.
We can consider potential partnership models between LICs and HICs, according to three categories: “Low resource commitment” models, “Moderate resource commitment models”, and “High resource commitment models”.
Three Models for Expanding a Hospital
Low resource commitment models tend to focus on providing extra training to professionals in a foreign institution, through an exchange program.
Moderate resource commitment models are focused, not only on providing extra training but also on reimagining and refining processes to address imperative healthcare problems in the Low Income Country. These efforts are often carried out by several hospitals that focus on research, united under an institution such as the World Health Organization. An example of a moderate resource commitment is the African Partnership for Patient Safety.
A high resource commitment model will also involve working through a larger organization, and focusing on solving a wide-scale public health problem.
But, what if we want to connect to another institution from abroad, with no mediators, and offer them our consulting and management services?
Hospital Consulting and Management Services
A reputable institution can find a new source of revenue in providing consulting and management services for foreign hospitals. But, as Robert W. Courtney notes, this can limit our partnership to a very reduced period. Eventually, our international partner might feel like the problems we were there to fix have already been fixed.
It’s also very important, especially if it’s your institution’s first time providing this sort of service at this scale, to define success in clear terms, and to account for external factors that might hinder it. Make sure the negotiation and contractual stages are carried out by professionals who are experienced in this sort of project. If they’re not already in your team, bring them onboard. You should also rely on a reputable healthcare translation services provider to translate all sensitive documentation and, eventually, patient orientation material.
A Clear Diagnosis Is Key
When picking a partner and designing a strategy, we must consider both internal and external factors. What’s the regulatory environment in our target locale? Will we have to import tools? At what cost?
Which problems is our ideal partner-facing, and how could we help them? Do we have the resources to do it? Is this sustainable long-term, or are we focused on a specific, time-sensitive goal? Will it be beneficial to our organization, or will it put a financial strain on us with no guaranteed benefits?
Proper planning is at the heart of all successful expansion efforts. Knowing your organization, its needs, and its goals, is as important as it’ll be to know your partner’s.