Healthcare integration: Begin with a defined purpose

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Successful healthcare integration must start with one key decision: determining the “clear purpose” of the union.

Jeff Jones, managing director for Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group, writes in an article for Hospitals & Health Networks that organizations that decide from the get-go how integration will align with its mission and vision will find that more employees will rally around the decision. It also sets a clear tone for how integration will play out. This thought process should be in play for any type of integration, according to Jones, whether it’s adding services or bringing an acquisition into the fold.

This process won't happen overnight, he says, but it ensures that the process will be clearly communicated to staff members.

“Those who dive in and immediately look to eliminate redundancies may run into organizational resistance,” Jones writes. “As a result, achieving authentic ‘systemness’--a set of complex interconnected elements that behave as one--will take longer to achieve or may not happen at all.”

Once staff is on board, that "systemness" is the next step, Jones writes. Because integration is not an overnight process, it’s important that potentially redundant services are kept in play until a consistent, reliable plan is in place. Cutting down too soon, in hopes of cost savings, could keep those new services or groups sequestered from the rest of the system, he says, so executives must lead the way with an overall plan for how they’ll operate in the system’s framework.

A defined purpose for integration also allows leaders to set clear measures for success, and highlight where exactly the system wants to go with cost reduction, patient satisfaction and quality improvements. The more uniform these goals are, the more likely quality will improve, he writes.