Garner: Opinion

Public benefit should define health success

Johnston Health leaders did not enter lightly into their partnership with UNC Health Care; in fact, they spent months conducting due diligence before settling on UNC. But like all business deals, the success of this one remains to be seen.

Success, of course, can be measured in many ways, depending on one’s perspective.

If you are Johnston County resident with health-care needs, you might consider the deal a success if it brings more specialists to the county to treat what ails you. You might consider it a success too if projected cost savings filter down to you (or your insurer).

If you are a leader of Johnston Health, success will come in increased and improved services. Johnston Health leaders will also consider the deal a success if it leads lower costs and higher profit margins.

If you are UNC Health Care, you want to fend off your rivals by gaining a strong foothold in what has been one of the fastest-growing counties in North Carolina. You also want to see more money flowing to the bottom line than it costs you to join the partnership.

Not all those definitions of success necessarily square up with one another. So the more rational view is that, even if services don’t increase as much as patients would like, or if the cost of those services doesn’t fall as much as you might want, as long as there is some improvement on both fronts, the partnership will be worthwhile.

The definition of failure is much easier to pinpoint. If all of these things don’t happen on some scale, the partnership will be a failure. Even if the bean counters are happy because the bottom line is more flush, if patients are not served better, it will be hard for anyone, with a straight face, to stand up and say the partnership was a good idea.

Lots of smart people will be working over the next many months to make sure the partnership works for everyone. We just hope their definition of everyone includes the public – you know, those people who had no say in the decision.