WASHINGTON--Joint ventures between community hospitals and university departments of oncology can offer significant benefits to both, but not unless all parties involved understand one another and formulate a well thought out program.
David A. Gift, MS, delivered that message with strong emphasis during the Association of Community Cancer Center's annual national meeting. Vital to the success of such joint ventures is a clear understanding of the reasons for forming them, said Mr. Gift, executive administrator for strategy and management, Department of Radiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing.
"One of the greatest reasons for failure in business in general is that the partners didn't really know why they wanted to do it," he said.
Another problem lies in establishing the value of each partner's equity contribution to the venture and honoring that contribution throughout all dealings. "In these competitive times, within any one community or region, frequently the collaborators within the alliance are competitors in lots of other ways," he said. "The easiest way to solve that problem is for each to relate fairly to each other."
Mr. Gift, who helped put together a joint venture in radiation oncology among Michigan State, the University of Michigan, and the Michigan Capital Medical Center in Lansing, offered a list of pitfalls confronting those who wish to form a community hospital-university partnership, including:
The business plan--Success depends on creating a careful, definitive business plan based on the market potential and a knowledge of the partners' strengths and weaknesses, and doing it from the start.
"This is critical; you want to know what you are getting into," Mr. Gift said. "If you're doing things in-house and make a few mistakes in details, that's not such a bad thing to solve. If you make mistakes in an alliance relationship, that can lead to some big problems." A good plan also serves as a management tool. "It sets the targets for operation," he said.