When it comes to our own health, we’re probably a bit selfish. We want to be the most important patient that our healthcare providers see on any given day, receiving unlimited one-on-one attention. We all theorize that this sort of healthcare was so much better back in the day. And of course we all long for personalized relationships with the people we entrust with our health, and ultimately our lives.
But fast forward to 2012. We demand state-of-the-art equipment and care from specialists who are experts in the most advanced techniques.
The medical community is answering that call with a trend that makes the nation’s top medical research centers accessible to local and regional facilities. Healthcare giants like the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic are establishing relationships, called affiliations, with community hospitals across the country. Earlier in year, the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic announced a groundbreaking affiliation with Altru Health System in North Dakota. Through this arrangement, Altru’s medical staff will be able to access Mayo’s renowned medical database. A physician in Grand Forks who is vexed by a rare set of symptoms will have 24/7 access to the advice and problem-solving expertise of specialists at Mayo.
Mayo has since announced a second such affiliation with NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois. In fact, suburban Chicago has become a battleground of sorts. West suburban Cadence Health recently announced a similar relationship with Cleveland Clinic.
This new round of changes in the business of healthcare follows a longer term trend of hospital consolidation and acquisition. Just like the hometown doctors of the past who eventually joined practices with other nearby physicians, smaller hospitals are finding it difficult to compete as individual players. Consolidating with multi-facility conglomerates brings with it needed financial resources and access to specialists that are unaffordable on their own.
As philanthropic consultants, we are wondering how this will affect fundraising strategies. These affiliations may have an effect on the case for support on both ends. For the national institutions, will their donors see these affiliations as an enhancement or a dilution of their gifts? For the regional or local institutions, does this compromise or promote their ongoing pursuit to be the best in their communities. Unfortunately, we have yet to see. But proper planning and testing can help to appropriately position these organizations for further success.
Will longtime donors to giants like Mayo Clinic question whether their dollars are going to research or going to outreach? Can small town hospitals pursue their brand as local healthcare providers even as their relationships with national providers expand? Will these affiliations turn into opportunities for consolidation? Will there be only a handful of large medical center giants operating thousands of facilities around the country? And is that such a dark scenario?
I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Adam Wilhelm, Senior Consultant with Campbell and Company, specializes in healthcare philanthropy.
About Campbell & Company Healthcare Practice
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