#Blogtober: Building Health System Networks

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17 / 10 / 2014 12.01am

By Simon Phillips

#Blogtober Day: Friday 17 October

In 2005, I was involved in two system improvement projects; both focused on the patient experience of admissions and discharge, both involving professionals from across multiple Health and Social Care organisations and both a major priority for the organisations involved.  However, initial results were dramatically different.  The overall pace, enthusiasm and energy involved was dramatically different and the cause was not obvious.  However, one conversation with a discharge nurse on the failing project, set us straight; “I just wish they would talk to each other!” she said.  What she was identifying was a lack of meaningful dialogue between the leaders at the hospital and the local GPs, but the protagonists could have actually been any of the key stakeholders.  They were just not networking.

Bringing People Together

We switched our efforts to focus more on facilitating local system networks.  We created space for the stakeholders to connect/reconnect at a fundamental level – as people concerned about the health and wellbeing of their fellow human beings, not directors and budget holders.  Almost overnight, improvement was accelerated as the volume of assumptions decreased (the phone was easier to pick up when it was a friend at the other end) and the opportunities for greater resilience increased (primarily through informal conversations).

What is Networking?

The best networkers in the world agree that networking is all about relationships.  Relationships are not the result of exchanging business cards or connecting at a conference; these activities may form part of the process but relationships form over time.  The following four tenets of networking will help us all build better networks within our health systems:

  • Really Connect
    Connecting is not enough, you need to follow up as soon as possible and really connect.
  • Help!
    It is all too easy to attend a meeting with someone in our network and be fixated on what we want; instead, think about what you can do to help.
  • Facilitate
    In our private lives we make referrals all the time; from great plumbers to brilliant accountants.  Doing the same within a health system strengthens the links and enhances relationships between all parties.  Give someone an introduction to live up to!
  • Nurture
    A great relationship is nurtured through continued interaction and the flow of value.  Keep in touch and demonstrate how much you value your relationships.

Simon Phillips is the author of “The Complete Guide to Professional Networking: The Secrets of online and offline success”.   His passion for Organisational Development within Health and Social Care began in 2002 and is currently working with Central Southern CSU. Simon can be contacted via Twitter @1simonphillips.

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