I’ve been to meetings in more than 200 boardrooms in hospitals, health ministries and health care agencies around the world. These meetings have taken place in countries on five different continents. Some of them were in the most industrialized countries in the world; others were in developing countries. The cultures of the organizations and the local populations varied wildly. Some of these organizations had been around for decades; others had just opened. Some were giant medical centers; others were more like very large clinics.
What is striking to me in thinking back on all these meetings at all these different organizations is that in every case, the organizations were struggling with basically the same set of issues. Here’s a brief rundown of the apparently universal list of challenges health care providers are facing:
- How to establish and maintain a highly trained clinical, administrative and technical-support workforce big enough to fully service the patient population
- How to get fully reimbursed by the government, insurers or patients for all the services provided
- How to hold down costs relative to other good and services in the local economy
- How to nurture staff-to-patient and intra-staff interactions that enable clear communication and good relationships
- How to establish a reputation for top-notch service quality
- How to maintain a flow of capital sufficient for growth
- How to afford and set up an effective information technology infrastructure
I think there’s good news and bad news in the apparent commonality of major problems faced by health care organizations of all types, everywhere. First, the bad news: the fact that everyone is struggling with these same issues, and has been for decades, suggests that these are fundamental challenges deeply rooted in the very nature of providing health care. And that, in turn, means that there won’t be any easy, sure, quick, simple solutions to any these problems.
The good news: As we make progress through hard work and innovation—and progress really is being made, here and there—the resulting improvements should in many cases prove portable and transferrable. That is, since the problems are universal, we may only need one organization somewhere to figure out at least a partial solution that can then be disseminated and adapted to health care organizations everywhere.
Of course, making solutions as universal as the problems requires some means of porting solutions between organizations. I think that’s one reason that collaboration is becoming increasingly important in health care. But collaboration can’t stop at the borders between countries. It will take a globally collaborative health care industry to make sure we have the best chance of creating, identifying and nurturing potential solutions wherever they happen to emerge, and promulgating them everywhere.
That global industry is just starting to come together now. Johns Hopkins Medicine International has been a big part of it from early on, but we want to see it grow well beyond us and a handful of other key players. I think that will happen over the next several years. And given the potential population-wide benefits of solving these thorny problems, it won’t happen a minute too soon.
It will certainly make some of those boardroom meetings more exciting.
By the way, I now have the honor of being a member of LinkedIn’s “Influencer” program, which means my LinkedIn posts about leadership and the health care industry are widely distributed among that social network’s members. You can check out my first few LinkedIn posts here:
Please let me know what you think, and please do tell me if you have any suggestions for topics you think I should address.7 Comments