PROFILE: International Hospital Federation

collaborative medicine
Advocating for hospitals on a global scale

How can healthcare thrive in a context of uncertainty? Eric de Roodenbeke, CEO, discusses the work of the International Hospitals Federation (IHF) to this end

How did your background lead you to the role of CEO of IHF?

As a hospital manager and having also worked extensively in international health, including in key multilateral organisations, coming to IHF was a logical continuation of my career. IHF is an ideal place to be advocating on a global scale for the role of hospitals in health systems and the wellbeing of populations.

What does a typical week at IHF look like for you?

What is great about this position is that there is no typical week as the scope of the work is extremely broad: dealing with the governance and administration of the organisation, representing the hospital industry in international meetings, participating in international technical groups, working with IHF members on our large portfolio of activities, and developing educational content.

IHF provides its members with a platform to exchange knowledge and strategic experience. Why is this important?

Because of its nature, hospital leadership is very local-centric. Most executives are overwhelmed by many challenges embedded in the context in which they operate. However, when taking a step back it’s clear to see that the core issues are very similar worldwide. 
Information is readily available in our digital world, but nothing can replace the personal exchange of information on what matters to a person in their position as health service provider. This interaction offers a unique dimension in the learning process and in the ability to be a transformational leader. IHF is a trusting community of people who are willing and happy to share with one other. 


The Federation’s vision is a world of healthy communities served by well managed hospitals and health services where all individuals reach their highest potential for health. What steps need to be taken to realise this goal?

To be well managed, hospitals should be served by professionals adept in management and leadership in healthcare, and for this we have adopted an international directory of core competencies serving a broader movement in support of the professionalisation of health service management.
Health service executives can assess their competencies and work on improving them using a platform we offer on the net. It is free, fully protected by GDP regulation and available in six languages. This is a key milestone for a more ambitious programme supported by IHF to promote well-managed hospitals.

What kinds of support do organisations require in the promotion and delivery of healthcare?

Today, organisations are being pulled in a number of directions, which makes life difficult due to a context of immense uncertainty while resources are tightened up. In such a context, organisation leaders should be able to step back and reflect. Having the possibility to listen to and meet their peers from around the world is a great opportunity for this and such an opportunity is provided by IHF with its annual World Hospital Congress. We select fundamental trends that are then addressed from all angles by people from all around the world. 

HF collaborates on a large scale. Which are some of the Federation’s most important partners?

Collaboration is a cornerstone for an international organisation like IHF. We have had a number of long-lasting collaborations with key international players on the health scene. IHF has been in an official partnership with WHO since the early fifties and has continuously been associated with all initiatives related to health service delivery. It also has strong working relations with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Bank. IHF sees it as critical to work closely with patient organisations like International Alliance Of Patients' Organizations and other professional organisations such as ISQUA and the European Health Management Association, among others.

For you, what are the most exciting elements of the IHF Strategy - Beyond 2020?

This strategy will provide additional tools and approaches to go beyond the traditional vehicles associations rely on to get their members active. For example, we have partnered with a very promising startup called CERCA that is developing a platform for more meaningful interpersonal contacts and professional relations. This may provide a response to the demands we are receiving from our members who are seeking personal support or advice in relation to a very specific topic. A hospital is a world on its own for which hundreds of issues must be dealt with and we need to enhance the capacity to get people connected on what is relevant to them today and what will be relevant to them tomorrow. 

holistic medical

What are you most excited about/do you find most inspiring currently in the world of hospitals and healthcare?

The element that is both most challenging and most exciting is the uncertainty in which we must operate and the level of competition we are facing. Getting the attention of healthcare service leaders is becoming extremely difficult considering the pressure and multiple requests they are facing. It is our role to help alleviate the workload of health leaders so that instead of pursuing the latest development they can be better placed to proactively forge the best future for their organisation, enabling it to fulfill its mission of serving the people and the health of the population. ■