Partners HealthCare expands influence to China with latest deal

Partners HealthCare will receive a little less than $3 million in a deal with Jiahui International Hospital in China as part of a partnership to develop a women’s health center of excellence in Shanghai.

The deal is part of a larger initiative begun over a decade ago to collaborate with international partners, as a means to broaden global recognition for Partners institutions, which include Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospitals, and receive international referrals.

“We’re one of the few American academic medical centers that has developed traction in this huge market of 1.4 billion people,” said Gilbert Mudge, CEO of Partners HealthCare International. “It gives us an enormous amount of expertise in China healthcare where we can begin to explore the research and clinical potential. We’re seeing a growing number of patients coming from China to the MGH and Brigham for their healthcare. It gives us a way to develop a more meaningful footprint in China.”

Mudge also said the relationship will give Partners physicians access to alternative therapies and new ways of coordinating care.

The announcement builds off of a similar partnership announced with JIH in October, when Massachusetts General Hospital signed an agreement with Jiaheu International Hospital (JIH) to provide oversight into the hospital’s oncology programs.

The goal has been to transform oncology care into a multi-specialty program in China, initially focused on breast cancer, but soon moving to colorectal cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, thyroid cancer and eventually lung cancer, Mudge said.

The latest agreement calls for the Brigham to look at an integrated health care program around women’s health, looking at the primary problems of late-stage diagnosis of breast cancer and cervical cancer, and the unique differences between men and female around cardiovascular disease.

The Brigham will also be charged with developing obstetric, gynecology, in vitro fertilization programs and neonatal ICU programs.

Local ties extend even further; Mudge said the design elements around the project came out of architectural firms from Boston.

While Partners will have a large role in how the hospital develops, it won’t be a marquee name on the building.

The global focus is also one that isn’t new, and hasn’t been influenced by Partners recent struggles to expand its footprint in Massachusetts, Mudge said.

The organization has been collaborating with partners in several places in India for years, on both direct clinical care as well as a broad program around nursing education. Programs are also underway in Qatar working on quality improvement, physician leadership, disaster management and more.

It has taken time to move into China’s market, but the potential was worth the wait, given the size of the population, the commitment of the government to reorganizing health care, and the potential research into disease sets that differ greatly from the U.S.

Making headway was difficult given the challenges coordinating with groups that could suddenly be replaced by the government. But three-and-a-half years ago, a company founded out of New York City moved to Hong Kong to develop a large health care initiative.

“They sought us out to help them in this, and it’s been a successful relationship,” Mudge said.

Partners is far from done looking abroad. Mudge said his organization is continuing to define opportunities abroad. In China specifically, he’d like to develop five or six projects within the next two years.

“There are so many dimensions to what we can do,” he said.