Not all partners are created equal

Variety, they say, is the spice of life. But when you have ongoing collaborations with approximately 50 different health care organizations, isn’t that taking things a bit too far?

Not at all, insists Jeanne Boling, MSN, CRRN, CDMS, CCM, executive director of Little Rock, AR-based Case Management Society of America (CMSA). "I have five different levels of collaborations going on," she explains. "Within all of those five we have relationships with a number of different entities on each level."

Those relationships include associations dealing with occupational health, rehabilitation, chronic disease, various professional disciplines, governmental agencies, the military, credentialing organizations, for-profit and not-for-profit health care providers, technology development organizations, and health care consulting firms.

The first level, Boling explains, may involve sharing mailing lists in order to promote conferences. "So, for example, CMSA gives [the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses] its list, or promotes an AAOHN conference; we trade in an area where there is equivalent value. It saves everybody some costs and benefits the members. It also provides an opportunity to make your members aware of other conferences," she says. This level might involve the "trading" of booths, where each organization gets a free booth at the other’s conference, or a trading of speakers. "That’s reasonably common, and we do it from time to time with various associations," says Boling.

The second level takes the collaboration a step further. "This is where we recognize expertise and value," she notes. "For instance, AAOHN might have some members interested in case management. Likewise, we may have some members interested in occupational health or disability management. So, from AAOHN’s perspective it may want to develop resources in case management; we might be able to add value for their members by allowing them access to our case management resources: on the web, at conferences, and so on. AAOHN can do something similar for us. That becomes really cool because it provides additional benefits to members while keeping those members in their primary association."

The third level involves more "solid," organized coalitions. "For us, that means health policy and international issues," she says. "The international community is really expensive to serve, so it’s a good idea to look for a partner."

The fourth level extends to offering cobranded products or educational programs, or a shared data bank. "These could be for salaries, outcomes, or anything that could be of value to one or more organization," Boling explains.

The fifth level involves actual representation on boards of other organizations.