Consider this scenario:
The CEO of the local Community Behavioral Health Center (CBHC) and the CEO of the local Community Health Center (CHC) bump into each other at a local community function. The conversation turns to a deliberation about healthcare integration. They plan to meet for lunch next week to discuss it further.
At lunch, they examine the latest healthcare trend: providers from behavioral health and primary care joining forces to form integrated healthcare partnerships to improve health outcomes. Both agree that theirs’ is a match made in heaven. Over dessert they decide to become partners, sealed with a firm handshake.
What happens next?
For a successful partnership, it is crucial to start with a solid foundation that includes flexibility in the core structure to weather the inevitable storms ahead. This must be accomplished before beginning to build. Failure to adequately address this will result in a partnership that appears to be healthy on the outside but with a weak core. Remember that it’s easy to have a good relationship during the good times. When troubles arise, the solid core serves as an anchor to enable perseverance. To accomplish this, there are key areas that must be discussed thoroughly before moving on to formalizing the partnership.
Why is this important?
Consider this version of the next chapter in the aforementioned scenario:
Over a series of phone calls, the two CEOs discuss the details of their lunchtime plan for partnering to to provide integrated healthcare. Topics discussed include creating a Memorandum of Understanding; financial arrangements (who pays for what); which services will be provided; and who bills for which services; becoming a health home. Separately, the CEOs meet with their management teams to plan logistics. At that point the leaders, thinking their work was done, withdrew from the planning. The management teams put together the clinical teams for providing the services. The various teams finally meet for a face-to-face planning session, roughly two weeks prior to the scheduled kickoff. The CEOs make a final appearance to give it their blessings.
The teams are thrust into the arranged marriage, virtual strangers. They never had the opportunity to establish a relationship before the partnership was finalized.
Shortly after the two year anniversary, the partnership is dissolved. The two CEOs think back to the dessert agreement with the “happily ever after” partnership they envisioned and, scratching their heads, wonder what happened.
Unfortunately too many partnerships follow the course outlined above. Once the relationship is dissolved, the organizations return to business as usual. However, it is the people who received the integrated services who are hurt as a result; once again left without services.
Some important things to consider for a successfully integrating behavioral health and primary care include the following:
Identifying the Vision and Mission
Locating a partner is an important first step. Before the partnership is formalized, however, it’s essential to carefully clarify the vision and mission to ensure that they are in alignment with the expectations of each of the organizations. Each partner must become very familiar with the other’s mission and vision. These questions will help to drive that discussion:
- Are the potential partners prepared for taking on a new business venture?
- Are the stated missions of the organizations in sync?
- Can the long-term plans of each organization be adjusted to include this partnership?
Over the next few weeks we will examine critical steps to ensure that your partnership avoids the pitfalls that the organizations in the scenario encountered: A partnership that has the solid and flexible foundation that is necessary for a lasting partnership.
Next week we will take a look at the process of determining the level of integration that will best fit with your vision for the partnership.