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Posted on 07.01.2019

Hospital M&A: Seeking a Partner? What to Share & When

Hospital M&A activity may be slowing slightly after a record 2018, but that doesn’t mean hospitals and health systems are sitting idle.

Driven by a variety of market forces, many hospitals continue to pursue alliances – be it in the form of a sale, joint venture or clinical affiliation. As these players plan their next move, one question that often rises to the top is what to share publicly ... and when. 

With successful mergers and failed unions alike dominating recent headlines, many leaders are wary of saying too much, too soon. For some, it’s a legitimate concern – especially potential sellers whose brands – and sales potential – risk damage should the deal fall apart. (It’s worth noting that about a quarter of announced partnerships never make it to the altar.) Others simply prefer not to invite scrutiny before the due diligence process is complete.

On the flip side, lack of communication can backfire – resulting in rumors, leaks, distrust, low morale and, ultimately, lack of support for the deal once announced.

While the answer often lies in an organization’s culture and the particulars of the deal, transparency can be a powerful tool in building trust and engagement among stakeholders – both of which are key to a successful transaction and smooth integration.

Even organizations that aren’t pursuing partnerships are likely contemplating significant changes to their business model that will require the understanding and support of employees, physicians and others.

Whether your hospital is looking to join forces with another or carve its own path, one thing is certain – communications should never be an afterthought.

While you may not be able to share every detail of your strategy right now, make it a point to talk with employees and physicians about the challenges your organization is facing and the wins you’ve achieved together. Help them understand the broader realities shaping the industry and how your organization fits into the bigger picture.

Take the time to meet one-on-one or in small groups with other key stakeholders, including community leaders, elected officials and members of the media. Invite them into your hospital and reach out with regular updates. Plan ahead and know how to respond to tough questions that you may not be ready to fully answer.

Most importantly, do it now ... well before you’re ready to announce a deal or other strategic change. Giving stakeholders the context they need to understand – and even anticipate – change will pay dividends when you are ready to share important news.

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