While not a new concept, public-private partnerships (PPPs) are being used far more frequently in the healthcare community. Given the increasingly complex nature of the healthcare ecosystem, it’s this collaboration-centric way of thinking and multi-stakeholder approach that’s needed if we hope to address some of our largest healthcare issues (think lack in patient access, lack of diagnosis, or fragmented patient journeys).
PPPs unite the public and private sectors around a common objective with the aim of utilizing each sector’s unique strengths to succeed in a more effective and efficient manner than if pursuing alone. And this opens a unique opportunity to address highly complex and multi-factorial healthcare challenges.
I’ve seen such strategic partnerships work to increase awareness of thyroid diseases amongst populations that are most affected. I’ve seen them bridge the knowledge gap in infertility and open doors to treatment, and I’ve seen them launch research quantifying the unique impacts certain cancers have on women. More can be done through PPPs, and that’s why I am a strong believer that these partnerships will increasingly play a pivotal role in the future of healthcare.
As I reflect on these opportunities and the learnings from my own experience, there are three key elements that have significantly helped us succeed in these collaborations:
Invest time to identify and align on a mutual objective: As a sponsor of these types of partnerships, it’s first critical to identify a challenge that also aligns with a core corporate belief or business objective. From there, identify an entity with a common interest in addressing that same challenge. It’s important to carefully consider the shared purpose of the partnership and establish a clear set of objectives and outcomes that align with both parties.
Establish a transparent framework, including roles and main activities: Establishing clear partner obligations, roles, and responsibilities, while also allowing the parties to maintain a level of autonomy is critical to the success of a PPP. In this context, it’s also fundamental to align on the audience. Narrowing and conducting previous research on your audience can better inform and build your activities for success.
- Measure and share success: A form of measurement must be incorporated to track the effectiveness of the PPP, both for the patients as well as the partners’ internal stakeholders. Most importantly, effective measurement allows you to weed out components of the partnership that aren’t working so that continued investments can be targeted towards activations that draw the impacts.
It’s common for a PPP to work towards one common objective—but a PPP can also serve as an umbrella to tackle public health challenges across a wide variety of issue areas. An example of that innovative approach is the Healthy Women, Health Economies partnership, formed by my own company in collaboration with governments and other institutions across the world. Among them, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), including the United States, societies such as the American Cancer Society, and organizations such as March of Dimes. Together, we work to address health challenges that disproportionately affect women and impact their ability to join, thrive, and rise in the workplace. We see this approach prevalent across industries and governmental organizations. For example, Coca-Cola partnered with the USDA Forest Service to restore and protect damaged watersheds on national forests, and Unilever works across multiple public health issues with many partners to address issues like hygiene and nutrition.
Many healthcare organizations understand that PPPs are the future of healthcare and have made them an important piece of their overall business strategy. It’s also clear that the research, innovations, and breakthroughs stemming from PPPs benefit more than just the collaborating entities and enhance our ability to tackle public health issues and enhance patient-centric care. PPPs are a unique and pivotal tool at our disposal, and we must all do our due diligence to harness them.
Lynn Taylor is Senior Vice President, Head of Global Healthcare Government & Public Affairs and Head of U.S. Corporate & Government Relations at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.