Global Healthcare Collaborations
Apr 05, 2021 Heitham Hassoun, MD
Welcome to the second posting of our new blog.
For many healthcare professionals, international collaboration evokes an array of emotions that includes, in various combinations, curiosity, enthusiasm, skepticism and trepidation.
It turns out that each reaction is understandable. If the planets align and the right players forge a strong partnership that stands the test of time, both parties win. If not—if the project is beset with incompatible objectives, misunderstandings and unfavorable circumstances—the venture is likely to fail.
Building mutually beneficial healthcare relationships across the globe is a complex endeavor impacted by differences in language, culture, medical knowledge and practice, technology, economics, organizational hierarchies, infrastructures and systems.
In a field notable for uncertainty, the most compelling reason for international cooperation in healthcare is the most fundamental one: the patient. Our patients are best served when their care incorporates best practices from around the world in a local setting that includes the support of family and friends.
Building mutually beneficial healthcare relationships across the globe is a complex endeavor impacted by differences in language, culture, medical knowledge and practice, technology, economics, organizational hierarchies, infrastructures and systems. That said, the opportunities are enormous, partly because those differences are the opportunities. Often, we can learn so much from the most unfamiliar features of a foreign healthcare system.
We recently entered into two significant international collaboration agreements: one in China with Taikang Healthcare Group and the Shenzhen government, and the other in Qatar with Power International Holding, a hugely successful private sector conglomerate. Admittedly, I am ecstatic about these new relationships and the opportunities at hand, and also humbled by the challenges ahead.
There is no fail-safe formula for the perfect international collaboration, however certain principles favor success. First, humility. If one enters into a collaboration convinced that one will be dispensing superior wisdom and expertise, then distrust and discord are likely to follow. But if you approach your partners in a spirit of openness and inquiry, the stage is set for cooperation. Each institution will have its own distinct advantages and flaws, and there will always be learning opportunities for both partners.
A second principle: tolerance for risk. International collaboration in healthcare comes with uncertainty. There will be more variables than in a typical domestic initiative. Leadership will be tested: Is the organization’s main imperative to avoid risk, or to seek opportunity? If the former, and the organization filters a potential international project through its standard risk/reward profile, the project is likely to stall. Novel ventures require novel thinking. Boldness of purpose is essential. Success demands a leap of faith—a calculated and informed leap, but still a leap.
The third principle is essential: goodwill. Trust helps any collaboration, however, when human beings are navigating cultural differences, mutual respect becomes an absolute necessity. If goodwill prevails, the unfamiliar becomes a portal instead of a barrier.
Happily, successful international collaborations can yield rewards that far outweigh the challenges and difficulties. Cases in point, our collaborations with Taikang Healthcare Group and the Shenzhen government, and Power International Holding, will lead to the development of world-class hospitals that boosts the private healthcare sectors and benefits patients in China and Qatar. Clinicians and researchers in our medical centers will gain new insights in their areas of expertise. Each partner will achieve organizational and financial benefits. And, where relations between China and the U.S. have been strained by a global pandemic and geopolitical tensions, the project is a testament to the leadership of healthcare professionals in fostering positive relationships based on mutual respect and shared goals.
Condensed to a modest credo for success, these musings could go something like this: Embrace the unknown and seize the day with humility and goodwill!
Sincere thanks for your time and interest. More to come next month.