For Health Care Innovation, Cultivate Strong Alliances

Mark Solazzo, the health system’s chief operating officer, leads North Shore-LIJ’s 21 hospitals, long-term care facilities, the sixth largest physician group practice in the US, an internationally recognized medical research institute and health care-related businesses. He is responsible for integrating the health systems’ strategic plan and maintaining an organizational culture that recognizes the importance of leadership, execution, accountability and a commitment to growth and innovation.

For this installment in our Leadership series, Mr. Solazzo explains our health system’s partnership strategy, what it takes to execute successfully and how it fits with our emphasis on innovation. He also details on how partnerships benefit the business and patient sides of the health care equation.

Question from interviewer: The health care marketplace changed significantly in recent years. Why are business partnerships important? What do they add to the health care system?

Mr. Solazzo: In this marketplace, it's important to get to market quickly. To do that, you need to seek partners. When we consider partners, we’re looking for a few things. We’re looking for somebody who can bring management expertise, someone who shares the same culture and someone who can get us to market quickly.

Q: Do most health care organizations have a partnership strategy? How has your partnership strategy evolved?

Mr. Solazzo: North Shore-LIJ’s partnership strategy goes back to our focus on innovation in health care. I don’t think that many health care systems have partnerships or have organizations really focused on developing them. For North Shore-LIJ, this has been an evolution. Over time, we’ve seen the necessity to really focus as an organization to allow us to expand in this marketplace.

Q: How do you identify and qualify potential business partners?

Mr. Solazzo: We’re looking for opportunity. When you look at where the opportunity exists, it's very broad. You have to ask, “What does the consumer want?” There is a lot of opportunity in the ambulatory market. We’re trying to figure out how to get to that consumer in different venues. So whatever point of access the consumer wants, that’s where we want to be and we’re looking for partners to help us get there.

Executing Successful Innovations

Q: How do you typically structure and manage these partnerships?

Mr. Solazzo: Each partnership is unique. Each partner is going to bring a level of expertise that you want to take advantage of, and they’re going to want us to bring the right resources to partner with them. We have to structure each relationship in a unique way.

Q: What impact have these partnerships had on North Shore-LIJ’s bottom line?

Mr. Solazzo: The early partnerships, which have been in place for a couple of years, are starting to see a positive bottom line. One of the reasons that we partner is we’re trying to figure out other avenues to increase revenue in today’s very difficult health care environment.

Many of our joint ventures are in startup mode. They’re all beating their business plans and we expect them to be accretive to the bottom line.

Q: Tell us how partnerships have benefitted the business side and the patient side of the equation.

Mr. Solazzo: Different partnerships serve different purposes. One example that [that helps] us on the business side is our partnership with Synergy Health for Central Sterile Processing. We’re their northeast partner. Through this partnership, we’re going to create a hub in Long Island that will provide Central Sterile Processing for all of our hospitals as well as other partners. That will reduce cost, create greater efficiency, and provide a better sterilization product.

On the consumer side or health care side, we have a partnership with Go Health, Access Clinical Partners for urgent care centers. We want to be available to the consumer wherever they want to access us, so if they want an urgent care center we want to be there. Over the next 18 months, we’ll put up 45 to 60 urgent care centers with Access Clinical Partners. These urgent care centers will be throughout the New York metropolitan area including Long Island, New York City and Westchester. We intend to make certain that we can be where the consumer needs us.

Finding Opportunities

Q: Why are you focused on ambulatory surgery centers?

Mr. Solazzo: New York State has the lowest number of ambulatory surgery centers in the nation. If you look across the country, consumers want that option and so we want to be in that business. We have partnered with Surgical Centers of America to set up between 20 and 30 ambulatory surgery centers across the New York metropolitan area. It provides a better clinical option for consumers and it’s also more cost efficient.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for health care providers in the future?

Mr. Solazzo: Health care is dramatically changing. The opportunity is great but the opportunity goes to those that can move quickly. We need to make certain that we’re able to adapt, innovate, change and execute on those types of strategies quickly.

Q: You’re ahead of many other hospitals in the nation in forming partnerships. Eventually, others are going to see what you’re doing and are going to try to do the same thing. How are you going to stay ahead of that?

Mr. Solazzo: We’ll share our strategy with anybody. Our strategy is to get to the marketplace quicker and work with partners that can help us. The differentiation is in the execution. You can have a great strategy but you really have to concentrate on executing. That takes resources, knowledge and determination.

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