Intermountain, Stanford Children's CEOs say hospitals need to get comfortable being a 'frenemy'

Health systems have had to adjust to a lot of change in a short amount of time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Among the biggest changes they need to get comfortable with?

Collaborations with their rivals, said Intermountain President and CEO Marc Harrison, M.D., at Fortune's Brainstorm Health virtual event Wednesday.

"I think that the opportunity is to get comfortable with the whole 'frenemy' relationship," Harrison said. "Other industries recognize that an organization is both going to compete and collaborate with another organization, often simultaneously."

Intermountain and the other system have co-branded drive-thru testing sites to eliminate redundancies, they share personal protective equipment numbers and they load level patients between systems. They have also "harmonized" clinical trials to ensure consistent criteria for all patients admitted to them, he said.

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"I think that's fantastic," Harrison said, speaking during a virtual panel called Reinventing the Hospital. "We will compete in the future in certain areas but I'd love to continue to see this."

The increasing level of collaborations amid the pandemic is also among the biggest changes Paul King, CEO of Stanford Children's Health, has noticed since COVID-19 began its spread across the U.S. 

"That is one of the silver linings of what we've seen with this crisis, particularly in the children's hospital space. We've seen a level of collaboration, heretofore unseen, with the amount of sharing of best practices real-time," King said. "The other outcome of this crisis is the idea of speed. We've been able to really stand up some capabilities that we would've said weren't possible just 12 weeks ago. That level of collaboration is part of the genie we don't want to go back in the bottle."