Joint ventures are marathons, not sprints.

Unlike mergers or acquisitions, joint ventures are ongoing, trust-based relationships, not one-time deals. They hinge on the alignment of parent values and missions, effective communication and trust, strategic leadership and clearly defined performance measures.

January 2020 wrapped up the sixth year of Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH), a 10-year joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM). Using the marathon metaphor, the partners are now nearly at mile 16 of their shared 26.2-mile journey.

In that time, we have covered a lot of ground in terms of developing and enhancing clinical programs, increasing patients’ access to JHM surgeons and physicians through an expanded clinical rotation program, increasing educational opportunities and streamlining operations at JHAH.

We have hit major milestones in creating an integrated health organization that can address the most pressing health challenges of JHAH’s patient population. Here are the highlights:

Bariatric Surgery
JHAH and JHM established the first integrated weight management program in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province to combat the global health epidemic of obesity. With support from JHM, JHAH patients can now receive enhanced minimally invasive, laparoscopic and robotic bariatric procedures, which typically mean smaller incisions, faster recovery times, reduced pain and less scarring. Bariatric surgery has become a flagship service for JHAH patients and recently was designated a Center of Excellence by the Surgical Review Corporation, an internationally recognized accreditation organization.

Heart and Vascular Care
JHAH and JHM worked together for six years to enhance and integrate the cardiology, cardiac surgery and vascular surgery programs to provide adult patients with a full range of heart and vascular services at JHAH. They launched a comprehensive Heart and Vascular Institute in 2018 to help alleviate the disproportionately large burden of cardiovascular disease in Saudi Arabia. Last August, JHAH began to offer transcatheter aortic valve replacement, a much less invasive alternative to open-heart surgery and an essential procedure in a comprehensive heart center.

Ophthalmology
Experts from the world-renowned Wilmer Eye Institute are helping JHAH to prevent and treat visual conditions, particularly those that disproportionately affect patients and families in the region. Wilmer’s experts are training JHAH colleagues in an advanced cornea transplant procedure that includes transplantation of donor corneal tissue. When JHAH patients require a corneal graft, JHAH and JHM are developing an independent eye bank program so JHAH has access to the best-quality corneas possible without relying on a third party.

Telemedicine
JHM helped develop a pilot telemedicine platform for emergency care for the patients treated at two of JHAH’s remote-area clinics. JHAH and JHM launched the pilot in April 2019 to decrease unnecessary medical evacuations to Dhahran Health Center’s Emergency Medicine Department and to provide alternative access to care for these patients. The partners aim to provide care as close to Saudi Aramco’s worksites as possible to reduce unnecessary costs and risks, and to improve patient access to local, immediate emergency care.

Utilization Management
Johns Hopkins experts have helped their JHAH colleagues employ the principles of utilization management to validate the cost and necessity of every medical procedure to ensure patients receive high-value health care. JHAH staff members are now using utilization management tools and skillsets to inform their decision-making and cost-containment efforts across the entire health system. Their hard work has yielded more than $26.2 million in financial savings through January 2020.

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Through our close collaboration, Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare will continue its transformation into a world-class health system with the medical and operational expertise to provide unparalleled care to patients and their families.

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