Healthcare systems are a collection of organizations, institutions, and resources that work together to deliver health care to populations. In addition to providing direct services to individuals, they also need to manage resources (human and material), finances, and insurance. They also educate communities about disease prevention and healthy living. Healthcare systems are incredibly complex, have many different responsibilities, and fulfill a wide range of needs.
This means that implementing projects – or even running a hospital or similar facility – within this sector involves creating and maintaining relationships with a multitude of stakeholders, both internal and external.
Who are these stakeholders? How can we identify them? What are the challenges involved in managing relationships with them, and why is it important to address them diligently?
Who are healthcare stakeholders?
Healthcare stakeholders include all the individuals and groups concerned by a healthcare facility or project. Each stakeholder has their own interests, and some have the power to strongly influence the outcome of a project.
The main healthcare stakeholders
The healthcare sector is generally considered to have four main stakeholder groups:
- Service providers
These four groups are connected and influence each other.
Patients are the sector’s most important stakeholder, both in terms of numbers and value. Patients are the primary reason healthcare systems exist. Services and projects must therefore take account of their needs, interests, opinions and so on. As taxpayers and voters, patience also have influence.
These are the professionals (individuals or institutions) who provide health care to patients. They also train medical and paramedical personnel.
They are responsible for overseeing all aspects of healthcare, including issues such as eligibility, financing and quality. Depending on the type of public healthcare system, these authorities may vary slightly. For example, in the province of Quebec, Canada, the main decision-makers are the Minister of Health and Social Services, the National Director of Public Health, and the Regional Directors of Public Health.
This group includes insurance companies, public health organizations and individuals who assume financial responsibility for healthcare services. Payers influence health policies, service pricing, and reimbursement rates.
Internal and external stakeholders
Stakeholders can be divided based on whether or not they belong to the organization in question. If they are part of the organization, they are considered internal stakeholders; if they are not, they are external stakeholders.
Beyond decision-makers, payers, and medical staff, internal stakeholders may also include facility board members, volunteers, and donors.
In addition to patients, external stakeholders include private insurance companies, as well as pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies.
Identifying healthcare stakeholders
The importance of identifying stakeholders in the healthcare sector
Stakeholder identification is paramount for any project, including those in the healthcare sector. It is the essential first step in any stakeholder engagement process. Whether you’re running a hospital or conducting research or evaluation projects, the benefits are undeniable.
- Once identified, stakeholders can be analyzed based on their interests, influence, concerns and then prioritized. This helps ensure that financial resources are allocated appropriately.
- A thorough stakeholder analysis facilitates better communication, discussion and negotiation. Understanding our stakeholders’ realities, needs, and fears allows us to adapt our approach and engage with them more effectively.
- Building trusted relationships with the right stakeholders helps create a network with a wealth of knowledge to share. These relationships also build credibility for the project team, and in turn, the organization.
On the other hand, poor stakeholder identification can result in significant oversights that can compromise the success of the project.
How do you identify stakeholders in the healthcare system?
Stakeholder identification involves listing all the individuals and groups likely to be affected by the project, those interested in the project or concerned by it, and those who can potentially influence the outcome positively or negatively.
A project charter can be a great place to start identifying stakeholders, as it already includes a list of actors and contributors linked to the project.
Brainstorming sessions with participants and consultations with experts can be used to flesh out the list.
Existing lists can also be used as inspiration or checklists. For example, this list of 100 hospital stakeholders. It includes both internal stakeholders (emergency personnel, audiologists, financial directors, meal assistants, etc.) and external stakeholders (visitors, pressure groups, other hospitals, media, etc.).
Stakeholder management in different segments of the healthcare sector
The healthcare sector is vast and includes many contexts where stakeholder management needs to be adapted.
Private companies selling services (private clinics), medical devices, drugs, etc., have to manage numerous compliance issues, as well as their relationships with investors and suppliers.
Public health establishments (hospitals, public health clinics, social services centers and the like) must manage patient welfare, as well as a large number of employees and other health professionals. Unions and regulatory bodies are also important.
In research centers (for cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc.), the main parties involved are researchers, patients participating in clinical studies, and funding bodies.
Private residential and care facilities (homes for the elderly, centers for people with intellectual disabilities, etc.) need to consider patients/residents, their families, caregivers, and regulatory bodies.
The importance of effective stakeholder management in the healthcare sector
Effective stakeholder management in the healthcare sector is essential, as it contributes to the overall goal to deliver quality healthcare services to patients.
Here are a few factors that highlight its importance:
Working toward a common goal
Stakeholders all play a role in the patient’s journey through the healthcare system. Proper stakeholder management ensures that everyone is aligned with this ultimate goal. This improves coordination, which leads to better results.
Compliance with strict industry regulations
Good stakeholder relationship management is essential for navigating the complex regulatory frameworks of healthcare systems. This reduces the risk of violations that could lead to negative consequences.
Using resources wisely
With a range of stakeholders from different backgrounds and specialties, healthcare organizations have a wealth of knowledge and expertise at their disposal. Effective stakeholder management enables these organizations to take advantage of these skills, fostering an environment that promotes improvement and innovation.
The challenges of stakeholder management in healthcare
Let’s look at an example: a team conducting research wants to engage with stakeholders as part of a systemic review. A 2015 study identifies five specific challenges that await the research team.
It takes time to mobilize stakeholders, and managing the process presents its own challenges. Some question whether the benefits of such engagement (such as avoiding missteps) outweigh the benefits of publishing results more quickly.
Training and resources
For both managers and stakeholders, lack of knowledge and resources are likely to limit the benefits of stakeholder mobilization.
Finding the right people
Identifying the stakeholders you need to engage with can be a challenge, and this may be compounded by numerical restrictions imposed by certain regulatory bodies. But evaluators agree that “in many cases, the benefits of engagement are closely linked to the types of stakeholders involved and/or the composition of the stakeholder group”.
Balancing diverse contributions
Not all stakeholder contributions have the same value according to their background, knowledge, etc. It can be difficult to measure this value and to communicate that not all ideas can be retained, given the various constraints.
Understanding when to involve different stakeholders
Building on the previous point, it’s challenging to pinpoint when it would be most advantageous to draw upon stakeholder value during the process. In fact, all stakeholders can’t be treated as a uniform group, each bringing distinct perspectives and interests to the table.
The implications of these challenges for healthcare organization
Whether conducting a research project or managing a hospital, the challenges of stakeholder engagement have similar consequences.
- Gaps in stakeholder identification.
- Lack of sufficient stakeholder knowledge.
- Time management problems and misallocation of resources.
How Borealis software can support stakeholder management in the healthcare sector
Borealis software is a stakeholder relationship management software designed specifically to support stakeholder engagement activities. Thanks to its intuitive interface and fit-for-purpose features, Borealis simplifies engagement with the many different stakeholder groups in this sector. Borealis supports a proven “plan-engage-measure” methodology that covers all aspects of stakeholder management:
- Centralize all stakeholder data, including their preferred means of communication.
- Access this data from any communication device.
- Map stakeholders by interest, influence, etc., and prioritize them for engagement.
- Create reports quickly.
- Establish a thorough corporate memory to maintain continuity of operations in the event of personnel changes.
- Simplify regulatory compliance.
By offering organizations the means to build stronger relationships with their stakeholders, Borealis also helps organizations improve their reputation: a significant advantage in today’s healthcare environment!
- Healthcare systems are highly complex organizations that require exemplary data management practices.
- The healthcare sector has four main stakeholder groups: patients, suppliers, decision-makers and payers.
- Many other stakeholders may be involved as well, depending on the specific project or the type of facility being managed.
- Stakeholder identification is the essential first step in any stakeholder relations initiative.
- You can use various methods and resources to help identify stakeholders.
- Organizations in the healthcare sector who manage stakeholder engagement effectively see a number of benefits. These typically include better coordination, improved compliance outcomes, and the ability to leverage a wealth of knowledge from a vast network of stakeholders.
- Some common challenges associated with stakeholder management in healthcare include time and resource management and determining how to weigh and prioritize input from different stakeholders.
- With its many helpful features and user-friendly interface, Borealis stakeholder relationship management software is the ideal solution for stakeholder engagement in the healthcare sector.
Want to find out how Borealis stakeholder engagement software can help you improve all aspects of stakeholder management? Contact us!