Stroke is a serious problem world-wide and especially in Asia where the mortality rate is higher than in Europe or North America1. Access to care is especially crucial when it comes to stroke, as it greatly affects patient outcomes: the shorter the time the brain is deprived of oxygen, the less the permanent damage. However, in many parts of Asia, especially in rural parts, access to care remains limited. The Mekong Delta region in Vietnam was one such an example. Timely treatment for approximately 10000 stroke patients2 for the region with a population of 17 million wasn’t available for the longest time. Today, Stroke International Services (SIS) General Hospital in Can Tho city, Vietnam, is the first stroke hospital in the region and is playing a crucial role in providing timely treatment for stroke patients, thus helping to reduce the risk of disability and death, as well as improving the delivery and coordination of care in acute stroke. So called ‘Value Partnerships’ between Siemens Healthineers and a group of private investors in Vietnam played a major role in realising the vision to improve access to care in the region and thereby transform the way how care is delivered.
Let’s start with some major trends we see globally. The demand for healthcare is rising as people get older. At the same time there is a lack of qualified healthcare professionals as well as suitable infrastructure, especially here in Asia, which is home to more than 50 per cent of the world population. We need to find a way to cope with the growing demand and ensure access to care for as many people as we can. We firmly believe that digitalisation can and will play an important role in shaping the future of care delivery. I’ve addressed this opportunity of digitalisation in my previous interview last year. This time I would like to highlight the contribution that Value Partnerships can make.
The main goal of a Value Partnership is to combine the strengths of the partners involved and jointly work towards a shared vision. The healthcare providers’ core strength of clinical expertise and a commitment to quality care can be paired with the global knowledge, strategic acumen, implementation capabilities, and innovative technology of Siemens Healthineers. Healthcare providers don’t just want a technology vendor. They want a true partner who can advise them on how to best serve patients’ needs now and in the future, and work along with them to bring their vision to life. Co-creation is the essence of a Value Partnership. Just like a marriage, no two Value Partnerships are the same. No two healthcare providers face the same mix of pressures and opportunities. Every Value Partnership is unique, built around the provider’s vision for delivering the best possible care to the patients that depend on them as well as the organisation’s requirements.
Real value is created when the technology partner can offer competencies that can be combined to maximise benefit to the provider organisation and the patients it ultimately serves. Many Value Partnerships include technology management, which aims to reduce operational complexity and increase technology availability through one single contact for all equipment related topics, providing additional budgetary security. Through our consulting and transformation services, we can optimise clinical operations as well as facilitate the introduction of innovation and digitalisation to improve efficiency. We also offer value-added services like education, staff training, workflow simulation, and design planning, which play a key role on our joint journey towards optimised care delivery. Last but not least, financing is a key enabler of our Value Partnerships. We have extensive experience with both public and private organisations around the world, and we understand the unique challenges and pressures that apply in each country where we are doing business. The wide range of offerings helps us to transform care delivery.
The need for a partnership is typically triggered by certain events such as a new hospital construction or expansion, replacement of an aging technology fleet, financial uncertainty, performance issues, changes in reimbursement, changes in ownership/management, or when there is a recognised need for a change in quality and cost improvement. Although the specific challenges may differ from provider to provider, those are typical events that call for a partnership approach. Especially in this region, Value Partnerships are a means to increase access to care. When we talk about access, there are three dimensions: accessibility, affordability and availability. Accessibility means care is available ‘everywhere’ and, in particular, close to the patients. Affordability means that patients can pay for state-of-the-art diagnostics treatment, and finally, availability means there is limited waiting time. All three dimensions, accessibility, affordability and availability can be challenging in Asia.
Let us take the previous example from Vietnam. Private investors who had a family member that suffered a stroke had the vision to provide timely treatment to patients in the Mekong Delta region. This was a huge ambition. The partnership we entered into included not only comprehensive diagnostic and interventional solutions but also an educational plan for the healthcare professionals in and around the region. As a result, the ‘SIS’s first Asian Stroke Summer School’ was born. The aim is to raise the skill levels of doctors on acute stroke management in the region including Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia. The concept is following the model of the European Stroke Winter School, which for the past five years has been held in Bern, Switzerland. The course format has turned out to be successful to spark interest in providing comprehensive endovascular stroke treatment services throughout Europe. With the first Asian Stroke Summer in SIS we have extended this success by making the Winter School training accessible for interventionists and neurologists in the Asia Pacific region.
Another, quite different example comes from Malaysia. The Laboratory Diagnostics (LD) team of Siemens Healthineers partners with our key account customers and regularly holds a series of LEAN workshops. The goal is to increase workforce productivity to address the continuous challenge of staff shortage and increased demand. The workshops typically focus on elimination of unnecessary steps that hinder or obstruct workflow and clinical excellence and also look for ways to create additional value for patients.
As with any partnership, trust, understanding and the sharing of common goals and incentives are key ingredients. We make sure to gain an in-depth understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities our partner faces. We set common objectives and incentives to tackle those challenges together. This may or may not include a performance and risk sharing arrangement – such as a performance sharing model or pay per use model. Once we have an alignment on objectives and incentives, we plan on how we can jointly achieve those goals. Ultimately, by bringing together the competencies of a MedTech provider with those of a healthcare provider and thereby combining the unique strengths and expertise, we can have a great impact on the provision of healthcare in Asia.
Many healthcare providers aim at providing high-value care. High-value care simply means to provide both the best possible outcomes to the patients while investing as little money as possible. The key to providing high-value care is embracing four key themes, namely expanding precision medicine, transforming care delivery, improving the patient experience, and all enabled by digitalising healthcare. Our goal is to support our partners in realising their vision to deliver high-value care.
1 Kim JS. Stroke in Asia: A global disaster. Int J Stroke 2014; 9(7): 856-7.
2 According to HCMC Society of Interventional Neuroradiology