Trust - Hard to build and easy to lose

An article by Lucy Morrisey, Director in the Johnson & Johnson MedTech UK & Ireland Strategic Capabilities Team

An article by Lucy Morrisey, Director in the Johnson & Johnson MedTech UK & Ireland Strategic Capabilities Team

A gap in trust between industry and customers reduces the opportunity and efficiency of a partnership. Speaking from a position of having sat ‘both sides of the table’, working across different areas of public-sector and private-sector healthcare, it is interesting to observe the behaviours of both our customers and members of my own team when faced with the challenge of advancing partnership working.

Working in healthcare, there is never a dull moment; it’s a people focused industry which has the potential to achieve great things, but it’s also very complex. Working in teams, across various boundaries with varying perspectives and interests is par for the course, and I’ve certainly had some hugely positive and challenging experiences because of it. 

In my role talking to customers about Johnson & Johnson MedTech Value Added Services, I am constantly drawing on my experiences of working within the NHS, as well as my understanding of the capabilities that industry has to work with our customers in partnership, sometimes in ways that haven’t been done many times before. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with customers have been frank exchanges of perspective based on honest appraisal of each party’s aims, objectives and constraints. For example, whenever I explain our commercial mechanism for value-added solutions, I make it clear our interest from a J&J MedTech commercial perspective is for healthcare professionals who are happy with the clinical efficacy of our products and technologies to use them in treating their patients. 

I also make it clear that being part of J&J we are intrinsically inclined to always do the right thing and advance value-based healthcare delivery to help healthcare systems tackle the quadruple aim. Another example is where I am asked for money to fund things, which I know will not meet J&J compliance parameters and so, as much as I would like to always deliver good news to our customers, I’d much rather keep an open relationship by being honest and saying it’s unlikely rather than wasting precious time filling them with false hope and potentially losing the trust and confidence we have built.

Cultural factors inevitably play a part when building trust in partnerships, but as with any situation, these can easily be overplayed and create artificial divisions between people. The people who work in the public sector are not substantially different to those that work in the private sector. Clinicians often work across both, whereas healthcare centre managers do so rarely, so there are varying degrees of understanding or comfort with the different approaches. Fundamentally we are all human beings and in the vast majority of cases, people driven to work in the health sector, regardless of role, have the same motivating factors for doing so, whether that be the pure desire to help other people, or other factors such as prestige, money and working conditions. It is possible to simultaneously wish to sell a knee replacement implant and improve care for patients by reducing the amount of time they spend in hospital, in the same way that it is possible for surgeons to conduct work privately and still deeply care about their NHS patients. 

Regulatory elements of the healthcare system are designed to be a helpful check and balance, and of course are entirely necessary for the safety of new products, but it can slow down innovation. An ability to be clear where processes have to be followed and explaining that to all involved, helps to give clarity on why things take longer than we might wish! I have a principle (and a drive for person fulfilment) to make things that can be deemed as complex into the practical and doable, and the excitement of bringing new technologies to the sector is one of the great privileges of my current role. 

In the interests of practicing what I preach, you may have noticed by now that my “thought” articles are also an opportunity for me to highlight what we’re doing in the industry and what makes me proud at my company, be that selling best-in-class products, helping very busy hospital teams improve care for their patients or bringing new innovations to market. The more upfront and well communicated our interests and intentions are, the easier it is to demystify, simplify and progress real partnership working and advance healthcare professionals’ aims and objectives as well as our commercial goals, which keeps the healthcare economy going.