How do we solve future health workforce needs with digital technology?

Over the past few months, a number of organisations across the healthcare ecosystem have engaged Energesse to help overcome challenges with the common theme of ‘needing to do more with less’.  It is unsurprising terminology for players in health system that is undergoing increased service demands but increasingly scarce funding supply. Hence we’ll be covering this in our Executive Breakfast in Melbourne in a few weeks.

The interesting fact is that this common problem emerges whether I’m speaking to a hospital CEO, a healthcare recruiter, a pharmaceutical industry executive or a healthcare technology vendor.

One of the stressors of this challenge in maintaining the existing business model and deliver services is that there is a need to maintain a significant workforce, whether it is doctors, nurses, HR, recruitment staff, accountants, sales reps and many more. At all levels of the ecosystem, the need for increased workforce is largely appears true, yet it forms one the most significant parts of the cost base of most organisations. And it is no longer sustainable.

As such, many organisations have spoken to me about how they can disrupt and innovate their own business or service model with technology, in order to manage the increasing cost and need of the workforce. However, most executives are challenged with exactly how to do this, and what thought process is required to start disrupting their own models digitally.

The answer is – it starts with your ‘customer’. One has to understand who the actual customer is in your part of the value chain and really understand their needs. The ‘customer’ may be the doctor, the patient, the pharmacist, the consumer/taxpayer, whoever it is your part of the organisation has to deliver value to.

One of the biggest mistakes is trying to adopt new digital technology solutions, is the tendency to jump to solutions (i.e developing a website or mobile app,or telehealth solution) , without really understanding who the customer is, and mapping out exactly where their needs, frustrations and pain points are in the customer journey. IT and digital solutions should target those pain points.

Customer Journey mapping is often done too narrowly in healthcare, and the questioning and analysis of real needs is actually done very poorly, if done at all. This results in enormous wasted financial resources on IT projects as well as not really solving the customer problem in healthcare. It certainly does not help manage the increased workforce requirements.  Similar insights on IT projects in healthcare were captured in research by Michael Porter and Bob Kaplan in Harvard Business School

If you’d like to learn more about this, do come along to our Executive Breakfast on  on Oct 30, 2015, 7.30 AM to 10.30 AM (AEST).  Download the brochure here.  Our breakfast event in Sydney was a great success, so if you happen to be in Melbourne, please join us if you are available, and feel free to pass on this invitation to your colleagues in healthcare. Click here to REGISTER

Health Insurance customer retention – Constructive feedback from our readers

Since the release of our Health Insurance Customer Experience White Paper, we’ve had thought-provoking engagement from health insurance providers, aggregators and customers. These insights uncovered more ‘devil in the detail’ to complement the comprehensive knowledge base in the White Paper.

In terms of observations with customer retention, several funds have had to introduce policies with exclusions, sub-limits and changes to the limits due in order to lower prices and make them more affordable. However, when customers find out later that these changes did not meet their initial expectations and then leave, these products can then become commercially unsustainable and unprofitable over time. This leads insurers to implement more restrictive changes which can further reinforce the ongoing vicious cycle of poorer customer retention.

Customer retention can also be linked to staff retention, particularly on the front line. In Australia, one of the reasons for this is because new staff are recruited into call centre’s particularly during the peak periods of March and June. This is where policy sales increase due to annual price rises and the end of financial year respectively (so tax benefits can be claimed). These new sales staff may not be as well trained on product knowledge or company procedures compared to the usual staff and may provide information that is inaccurate or incomplete.

During this period, the quality of interaction and customer understanding from the call centre may decline and policy sales that occur may be due to aggressive marketing strategies. This is exacerbated by incentives and pressure on front-line sales staff to meet sales targets during a short period of time. It can therefore result in sales of health insurance products that don’t necessarily meet the needs of customers.

There have also been observations on aggregator funds that sell health insurance products on behalf of health insurance funds. To differentiate themselves, these aggregators aim to spend a significant amount of time with customers to understand their real needs and position policies that better suit their needs out of a broader selection. However, they too can sometimes be influenced by policies with the best incentives.

A key issue can occur once a customer has signed up with the aggregator, and their details then have to be handed over to the health insurance fund. This follow up process may occasionally be disjointed. It can result in the customer’s ‘old’ fund continuing to deduct monthly payments while the new fund (that the customer has just switched to) has also begun to deduct payments. Many of these handovers can be messy and as a result cause a lot of customer dissatisfaction and complaints because it relies on coordination between entirely different organisations.

In some cases, this coordination may be seamless, but in others there are competitive reasons why this coordination may be challenging for the customer. This is when the old funds ‘win-back’ teams are not alerted to contact the customer and try and win back the customer that’s looking to change. Although there are regulations to prevent any inappropriate actions from occurring, however there are nuances that allow funds to utilize a variety of different tactics when it comes to trying to retain that customer.

Ultimately, behavior that ends up frustrating customers will cost either the aggregator or the health fund in the short, medium, or long-term, by departure of that customer. Insurers should decide what is in the best interest of the customers when making these decisions before creating solutions or changes to the process.

If you’d like to learn more on ways to empower consumers and improve experience in the health journey, join us in Melbourne for a  breakfast event called Building a Sustainable, Patient-Centred Healthcare System on Oct 30, 2015, 7.30 AM to 10.30 AM (AEST).  Download the brochure here.  Our breakfast event in Sydney was a great success, so if you happen to be in Melbourne, please join us if you are available, and feel free to pass on this invitation to your colleagues in healthcare. Click here to REGISTER

Many thanks to our readers who contributed their knowledge to this article – but who did not wish to be acknowledged – you know who you are!

In your experience, what have you observed in terms of the process of switching health insurance policies?

The Importance of Patient Experience – More than Comments on Hospital Food?

3308600_c71c6e180e_mThe last 2 weeks was a great opportunity to share much the latest research that we had conducted over the last 2 years on Patient and Customer Experience in Healthcare.

The healthcare sector is certainly coming alive this month as I recently completed one of my busiest schedules having delivered 4 consecutive speeches at the Health Insurance Summit, the Health Informatics Society of Australia conference, an Executive Breakfast on Sustainable Patient-Centred Healthcare and the CPA Australia Health and Aged Care Sector conference.

In my travels, I was amazed to learn that many healthcare executives are still trying to get their heads around understanding the importance of patient experience.

Intuitively, everyone believes it is the right thing to do.

Yet, often in Australia there is a sense that if you ask a patient about their hospital experience, then the answers that are likely to come back are comments about the food.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In 2009, the Mid-Staffordshire crisis in the NHS showed that one of the major reasons for multiple service failures and safety issues was the lack of transparency and disconnect between senior management and front-line staff and patients. Feedback from patients on safety and quality issues were largely ignored.

It began a whole ‘patient revolution’ in the NHS that mandated the need to collect and analyse feedback from patients, and turn the insights into meaningful actions for improvement.

Whilst this may seem like ‘additional work’ for already busy ward staff, according to Sir Robert Naylor, CEO of University College London Hospitals, measuring patient experience provides an early indicator of safety and quality, helping to prevent them from occurring.

The philosophy of being sensitive to front line experience, feedback and comments in order to improve organisational performance may be relatively new to healthcare, but it is well known in the business world.

At one of the conferences, it was mentioned that a former CEO of ANZ bank had a direct line to the Head of the Complaints Department, and wanted a daily update of what customers were complaining about, so he could clearly understand the customers voice through all the ‘noise’ from management layers in his organisation. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was also known for reading and responding to customer feedback e-mails himself, so he could get his team to make improvements in Apple products fast, before any major reputational damage.

Indeed, there is a clear trend that smart leaders with decision-making ability need to obtain front-line feedback fast, so improvements can be made quickly. Digital platforms such as the MES Experience platform, which we’ve brought in from the UK and are currently pilot in Sydney Local Health District, is allowing deeper insights from patient experience feedback to be collected, and sent to senior management in real-time.

I’d love to know how you are measuring and analysing patient experience in your hospital and how that’s working for you. Simply leave a reply below.

7 Calamities of Call Centre Insights

We recently completed an analytics project for a major insurer, and in that process learned a number of key lessons regarding insights gained in call centres. Many of these lessons were validating our research findings that we discovered through the development of our Customer Experience and Retention White Paper which was published in May this year.

As a medical doctor who has now moved into the business of ‘healing’ organizations, I found that you can check on the pulse of an organization through the behaviour of front line staff and the interactions within an organisation’s call centre. In many ways the call centre is much like the skin of the human body, being the major touch point with the external environment of an organization.

In conducting our work, there are 7 key issues we found that limited the ability of call centres to serve its customers, particularly from an insights perspective. Here are some of our findings or ‘calamities’ as we call them.

1.   The vast majority of all call centre analytics and KPI’s are quantitative, leaving out the ‘WHY’ customers behave the way they do. They also often leave out the ‘WHY’ these problems are occurring and recurring, thereby missing the opportunities on how to solve them with more targeted customer experience solutions.

2.   Existing qualitative categorization of calls is largely basic and only mention a top line reason for the call e.g. ‘Billing’. Front-line staff do not have the time to record any deeper reasoning e.g. ‘Billing delay, fraud, refund requested, wrong billing, bill not paid, etc’.

3.   Reasons for the call are merely structured to one or two high levels only and not distilled into sub themes or root causes of customer issues. An example may be that billing delay was due to website down-time on that day due to a virus attack.

4.   Call centre teams cannot easily identify actionable insights that arise from customer frustrations, contradictions, conflicts, and interrelationships between causes. They are too busy trying to deal with the immediate issue, with immediate tools are their disposable.

5.   Call centre agents are not always incentivised to make improvements within the centre particularly with an outsourcing centres, which can influence customer feedback loops. Whilst this is not always the case, some call centres are not incentivised to reduce call volumes to achieve efficiencies.

6.   Frontline agents have variable understanding of codes, often leading to inconsistent coding amongst them.

7.   Voice-to-text tools can be useful however many are limited by their transcription accuracy and ability to analyse the depth of insights from customer conversations. For example, a 80% transcription accuracy rate (which may seem high), could still translate to “Hello, I am calling about my will (bill) which I received late (eight) days ago’.

What we’ve discovered is that these above limitations can severely limit the organization’s ability to respond and improve customer experience and get to the root cause of why customers are leaving them. Often manual labour is extensively required in the form of consultants or internal staff to analyse this issues and solve the problems.

In our learnings from this project as well as Customer Experience and Retention White Paper, we have found that tools like Pensensic are able to as attain deep insights from customer conversations by analysing the conversation in a text format and ascertaining the root cause in an automated fashion. This saves time, money, frustrations on behalf of frontline staff and customers as well as provides senior management with a more targeted approach to solving customer issues.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you’ve come across the above 7 issues in your experience with customer call centres.

Empowering Health Journeys by improving Patient Experience (PX)

Improving the Patient Experience or ‘PX’ is becoming an increasingly important objective and metric in our hospitals. While this concept has taken a while to catch on in Australia (compared to countries like the UK), it is encouraging that it is part of many hospitals’ accreditation process these days. Some health CEO’s have stated that a closer eye on PX acts as an ‘early warning system’ to pick up underlying quality and safety issues that may be occurring.

As a parallel story, my 3 years developing start-ups in the technology industry enlightened me to the tech industry’s an absolute obsession with User Experience (UX). A successful technology platform has to be so customer focussed and understand a user’s behaviour in such detail, that it could predict the next 10-20 moves of customer journey and make it as pleasant and effortless as possible, so they don’t have to choose any other option.

Google staff used to say “Remember, our competitor is just one click away”, referring to the ease in which someone could make a choice to switch service if they were dissatisfied. I believe this attitude, combined with data analytics capability, will make Google and Apple major health players in the future, once they understand how traditional health systems work.

How would a strong discipline of improving PX help the health and wellbeing of all Australians?

Like in any system, consumers that are more empowered are more likely to push improvements in the system. In the case of healthcare, particularly in the public sector, users (i.e. patients) may not always have a choice as to which doctor, nurse or specialist they see. This occasional lack of choice therefore disempowers individuals who are then not incentivised to drive innovation in the system.

If that psychology around ‘walking in a patient’s shoes’, empowering them with choices and improving PX can be harnessed, today’s predictive analytics and technology could easily modify behaviours that result in reduced obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions, simply by making it as effortless and pleasant as possible to do so. These technologies, like the Fitbit for individuals and MES Experience, a digital patient survey platform for hospitals, can analyse feedback data quickly so changes can be made rapidly.

If you’d like to learn more on ways to empower consumers and improve experience in the health journey, you may have received the invitation last week for the breakfast event called Building a Sustainable, Patient-Centred Healthcare System on Aug 11, 2015, 7.30 AM to 10.30 PM (AEST) | Sydney.  Please join us if you are available, or feel free to pass on this invitation to your colleagues in healthcare. Click here to REGISTER

Customer Retention ~ A ‘Complex Systems’ Problem for Health Insurers

Australia now has a relatively mature Private Health Insurance industry with 34 private health insurers and over 11 million members. The number of people with PHI has been growing steadily, with annual increases of 2.5% over the last decade. In 2014, 47.2% of the population was covered for hospital treatment and 55.2% covered by general treatment policies.

The health insurance industry is expected to grow to over $21bn in annual revenue in 2015, with projections of 4-5% annual growth predicted leading up to 2020. It is now the largest individual segment in the insurance sector in Australia. There is an industry ‘centre of gravity’ with the 5 largest insurers (Medibank, BUPA, HCF, NIB and HBF) accounting for over 82% of policies, and the remaining 18% distributed across 29 other companies, mainly not-for profits. The larger funds therefore have the most to gain financially from improving retention strategies.

The evolving Australian insurance market is growing in complexity. Consumers have access to a choice of over 17,000 different policies and over 25,000 policies currently in use in the market. Policy products have become increasingly diverse with a complicated level of cover, exclusions, restrictions, excesses and co-payments. It is almost impossible for consumers to “compare apples with apples” and make rational purchase decisions.

A number of insurers experience lapse rates that exceed 20% of customers. This equates to lost revenue exceeding $2bn per annum from an estimated 940,000 members who switched funds in the 2013-14 financial year. Such high lapse rates have a significant financial impact on insurers due to the relatively tight net profit margins of most funds i.e. an average of 4.1% across all funds in 2013-146. Additionally, insurers and customers waste a significant amount of time negotiating and resolving issues related to poor purchasing and claims experiences, consuming significant financial resources in call centres and branches. At the same time, consumer expectations of value are increasing. They want to be better understood and have access to products and services that specifically meet their needs.

In theory, the broad range of products now available in the market enables more choice in trade-offs between price and coverage for consumers. This strategy is intended to attract different segments of the market to PHI. From an insurer’s perspective, product design also supports diversity of risk in their age and health profiles and is intended to improve the claims experience. Traditional actuarial determination of product design therefore assumes that consumers choose policies based on their expectations of future healthcare needs and their risk profiles relative to premiums. It is questionable whether current methodology is adequately consumer-centric in practice, as noted by the increasing lapse rates.

“Choice is not always a good thing for customers”

~ Harriet Wakelam, Head of Customer Experience, Medibank

From a consumer perspective, it is a difficult stretch to believe that consumers can really understand, much less predict, their future health needs. It is also doubtful that this is an actual driver to purchasing or retaining policies with an insurer. Whilst each customer segment behaves differently, expert contributors to the Customer Experience and Retention for Private Health Insurance White Paper acknowledge that today’s customers, particularly Gen Y, demonstrate a greater propensity to switch funds if they are dissatisfied with their experience. This suggests that the current complex environment is leading to poorer customer experience overall.

To add fuel to the fire, the 6.2% average premium rise in 2015 was the second highest health insurance premium increase in a decade, setting the stage for a “perfect storm” of unprecedented lapse rates in the industry. Consumers may also switch in record numbers due to ‘disruptive’ switch campaigns such as Onebigswitch (backed by media conglomerate and the growing adoption of brokers such as,, and

The irony is that switching funds can actually raise premiums as it increases the costs of acquiring new customers10. These costs can then be indirectly passed on to consumers. Along with rising medical claims costs, this phenomenon thereby creates and reinforces a ‘vicious cycle’ of rising premiums in the industry. This negative cycle may be further supported by traditional theories and potentially dated industry ‘myths and assumptions’ about how modern customers actually perceive, value, purchase and retain private health insurance.

In a ‘complex system’ such as the health insurance market, the root causes of issues are often multifactorial. The paper describes those multiple factors from the consolidation of inputs from interviewees. It also adopts a ‘systems thinking’ approach in consolidating those issues and making a more accurate diagnosis of the underlying conditions. This exercise was further aided by PanSensic’s text analytics capability.

As an introduction, ‘systems thinking’ is a sophisticated more complete approach to problem solving. It involves viewing ’problems’ in the holistic manner of an overall system rather than in its individual parts or silos in isolation. Systems thinking or ‘system science’ concerns an understanding of a system by examining the linkages, interactions and relationships between individual elements within PHI and the broader health system. Insurers that react to specific parts, silos or company structures ignore the effects on the overall market and consumer outcomes. This potentially contributes to further development of ’the problem’ such as the ‘vicious cycle’ of premium rises and increasing lapses.

Events such as consumer lapses and bad experiences are often caused by cyclical relationships in a system rather than linear cause-and-effect. It allows executives to see problems as they really are – dynamic processes of change rather than ‘one-time’ snapshots of events. This leads to a search for types of systems structures that are recurring and deeper patterns underlying negative events for insurers and consumers. A systems thinking approach therefore identifies not one root cause or solution, but a set of practices within a system that have become dysfunctional over time. Such an approach provides more advanced insights in diagnosing complex problems.

Future Solutions in Customer Experience and Retention for Private Health Insurance

The ‘Future Solutions in Customer Experience for Health Insurers White Paper’ is a research paper developed to help Australian health insurers deliver greater customer experience and customer retention. This White Paper is aimed for CEO’s, General Managers, marketers, sales and customer service leaders as well as analysts, policymakers and researchers in the industry. It is a ‘how to’ guide for getting closer to the consumer from a more complete, holistic perspective in order to drive strategic and tactical decisions.

Insights in this Paper were compiled from analysis of in-depth interviews and presentations from representatives of 10 Australian Private Health Insurance companies. Australia now has a relatively mature Private Health Insurance industry with over 11 million members and over $21bn in annual revenue in 2015. However, industry growth occurs in an evolving Australian market, which is increasingly complex. Consumers have to choose between over 17,000 different policies currently available for sale and over 25,000 policies currently in the market.

 Download the White Paper

Lapse rates can rise to over 20% of customers with some insurers (13). This equates to lost revenue (or switching of sales) exceeding $2bn per annum from lapses of an estimated 940,000 members up to 2014. These considerably high lapse rates have a significant financial impact on insurers due to the relatively tight net profit margins of most funds. In addition, insurers and customers waste a significant amount of time negotiating and resolving issues related to poor purchasing and claims experiences.

Applying a Systems Thinking approach to this complex, problem, we find a Vicious Cycle occurring in the industry in relation to customer retention and experience. From the consolidated analysis of contributor interviews, the real reason for poor customer experiences can be summarised into these 4 major themes. These include customer perceptions of confusion and lack of value, regulatory and competitive forces, sub-optimal systems, processes and data management as well as health system dynamics.

Following the analysis of interviews with industry experts, themes of solutions were consolidated. The solution model must also be robust, resilient to unpredictability and enable an organization to learn over time. In short, its execution must be a ‘Virtuous Cycle’ of CX Solutions, which is as follows:

  1. Define & Refine CX with Vision, Strategy and Objectives
  2. Align Leadership and Culture with Change Management
  3. Implement Systems and Capabilities to support CX
  4. Translate Perceptions into CX Insights & Priorities
  5. Apply CX strategically across portfolio, product design and marketing channels
  6. Extend CX across healthcare ecosystem

For some organisations, the implementation of all these solutions may take months to years and significant financial investment. As such, for those organizations that are time poor and can only do ONE THING to begin moving in the right direction, it would be to start understanding their customer perceptions much better than they are doing now. Every step of the Virtuous Cycle is largely defined by having deep psycho-emotional insights into customer perceptions. It all begins with the customer in mind, or rather ‘the customers mind’.

10 Insights for Sustainable Healthcare in Australia from Sir Robert Naylor

Sir Robert Naylor and Avi

At a recent conference hosted by the Health Services Innovation group in Tasmania, I had the privilege of engaging with a few leading CEOs and researchers in healthcare. Whilst there were many highlights, Sir Robert Naylor, the CEO of  University College London Hospitals (UCLH) was outstanding in his insights.

UCLH has been ranked the 4th highest performing NHS Trust in the UK and a large part of that is due to its clinical and executive management approaches.

A few key points that he made:

1.  Payors in the UK i.e. government funding authorities are increasingly wanting to pay for value, rather than activity. This sentiment has been echoed in Australia as we are placing more thought on how Medicare can move toward a model of payment for outcomes, rather than activities.

2.  Providers need to focus on ‘transformation’ rather than ‘translation’. Sir Robert suggested that there is a need to form integrated systems along pathways; in order to this incremental changes is no longer good enough and patient pathways have to be viewed and changed as a whole.

3.  It is imperative to engage patients as active partners in their care. “Doctors need to change from being God to Guide”. We need to change the current archetypal image so patients have more ability to take responsibility for their care.

4.  Integration would be improve outcomes and reduce costs. The word “integration” is used often, but the word means different things to different stakeholders

5.  Sustainability is the “nirvana” that we are looking to achieve. In the UK, the healthcare system has 8% reduction in funding next year due to a “Cost improvement program”, while in Australia, stakeholders are complaining about 4% growth.

6.  Consumers and the public trust doctors, hence Sir Robert feels that we have to get the clinicians to communicate with the community. People want a good relationship with their GP, and GPs that understand patient’s concerns.

7.  He also encourages more clinical leadership in executive teams and encourages them to train in business and management skills. His Medical Directors manage the money, the people and the quality or care.

8.   Sir Robert observed that Australia is 5 years behind the UK in terms of the performance data currently published, which is not sufficiently meaningful for real change. Publishing league tables is good for improving transparency and performance; at UCLH they publish mortality rates down to doctor level. The 2013 Francis Report on failings in Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust was a largely due to a lack of transparency – this is why league tables are very useful.

9.   The top priorities at UCLH are Patient Quality which includes:

·         Patient outcomes (is it going to make me better),

·         Patient Safety (is it safe for me),

·         Patient Experience (compliments/complaints)


These top priorities are put up on whiteboards on each ward, with top metrics updated daily e.g.. staff levels, infections rates. Each of his 9000 staff need to have these translated in a way that is meaningful to them, including janitorial staff.

10.  In terms of current thinking on innovation in the UK, a 5 year forward review by Simon Stevens suggested

  • Radical upgrade in prevention and public health
  • Break down barriers between GPs and public hospitals
  • New models of integrated care (Dalton Review)
  • Re-design emergency and urgent care

Sir Robert recommends tertiary health centers should focus only in a couple of areas of expertise where possible as it improves outcomes e.g. Cancer and Neurosciences. This is to establish critical mass, and involved UCLH giving up cardiac patients to other centres, but will dramatically improve mortality rates and build capability. He admires the Dutch system where they selected only 8 hospitals to treat complex chronic disease patients. Centralising services like stroke services has reduced mortality by 50%.

Medicare Review by Minister Ley needs to remove ‘Vicious Cycle’ of healthcare politics

Ministers Ley’s recently announced review of Medicare has largely been welcomed, however it remains to be seen whether it will dig ‘deep enough’. A multidisciplinary review of Federal Government payment mechanism is warranted as the current ‘fee-for-service’ model incentivises ‘doing as much as possible, for as many as possible’. This can lead to inappropriate testing, procedures, financial waste and even potential harm. A new strategy is required to break the cycle of rising costs, as demonstrated in the Future Solutions in Australian Healthcare White Paper, which interviewed 21 leading health experts on how to reform the health system. ‘Out of the box’ strategies included delinking healthcare spending from political intervention, such as with the Reserve Bank and interest rates.

Read the full article from The Australian

How to Overcome the ‘silo mentality’ in our Health System

Most leaders in our healthcare system agree that it is very fragmented and uncoordinated due to a high degree of complexity. Due to this fragmentation, some stakeholders unfortunately develop a ‘silo mentality’ on how to solve a problem within their part of the system.


For example, when the Queensland Government several years ago introduced a solution to reduce waiting times in their Emergency Departments, it caused hospitals with bed shortages to close emergency departments, causing havoc to ambulance drivers and potentially risking patient lives. They were not aware of the ‘system-wide’ consequences of introducing a solution in one part of the organisation.


Everyone knows we need greater integration across silos in healthcare.  To do that, we need to change the way we think and form effective partnerships to jointly share resources, knowledge and solve problems. However, not many stakeholders know how to partner well, and therefore don’t do it very effectively.


In my last decade, I have been involved in managing over 100 partnerships of various types – from identifying and targeting partners, negotiating issues, restructuring and advising on strategic resolutions. It takes work to be able to enable effective partnerships, but the health outcomes and financial benefits can be enormous.


As such, I would like to share this 10-Step ‘Partnership Development Guideline’  that was developed from extensive research in the Future Solutions in Australian Healthcare White Paper. I’ve personally gained benefit from these guidelines as evidenced by our good relationship with healthcare organisations, industry bodies and the many outstanding contributors involved in this paper.

10-Step ‘Partnership Development Guideline’

1. Identify suitable partners by researching individuals, organisations higher up the healthcare value chain and lower down the value chain. Set your own internal criteria of what you are looking for.

2. Determine the level of partnership intended to be developed. (Partnerships include joint ventures, strategic alliances, coordination, cooperation or collaboration). Every level has advantages and disadvantages and the partnership may be flexible to change levels at any time.

3. Conduct research ~ Understand the value you can bring to your partner by researching all the available value offerings that your organisation can provide. Research what the needs are for the potential partner organisation.

4. Approach potential partner – for initial exploratory discussions. Establish the appropriate contact person, contact details, location and role of the person. (A ‘high touch’ approach is recommended to build an initial relationship e.g. face-to-face meeting. Phone interaction or video conferencing is a recommended alternative if personal meeting is not possible).

5. Establish clear objectives ~ State your individual expectations and identify common objectives, shared values and outcomes. Find out if the partner’s mission, goals and target market align with your organisation. Evaluate the level of trust between all organisations involved. If your assessment is positive then proceed to next step. If not, assess if mutual trust can be developed. If this is unlikely, go back to step four and research other potential partners.

6. Determine mutual benefit ~ What is the type of benefit ~ economic, productivity, safety, effectiveness or health outcome? Discuss complementary skills, capabilities and resources that are mutually beneficial for the partnership. Evaluate if any training needs are required for both parties during the partnership. Identify what trust behaviours need to be implemented to cement the relationship.

7. Negotiate terms ~ Determine with the partner the roles and responsibilities for partnership coordination and evaluation, product or service development, financial, legal and personnel considerations. Agree on clear measures of success and responsibilities for ongoing communication, implementation, management and evaluation. Consider outcome-based or risk-share agreements, as well as transactional terms.

8. Close the deal ~ Finalise contractual terms, timelines for initiation and sign off. Involve appropriate internal stakeholders for approval and buy-in e.g. legal support, senior executive, etc. Obtain and ensure appropriate leadership support and management resources available to execute the partnership.

9. Communicate and celebrate ~ Disseminate information on the partnership to relevant internal and external stakeholders e.g. local healthcare professionals, community, media, other stakeholders and information or authority gatekeepers.

10. Initiate the partnership with a kick off meeting and/or launch. Set up regular review and evaluation.

I would also like to announce our latest collaboration with Australian Health Insurers, the Customer Retention and Experience White Paper. The Paper will be released soon. If you would like a copy, please visit by first week of May.