Last month, Eric Jordahl, Managing Director of Kaufman Hall’s Treasury and Capital Markets practice, blogged about the dangers of nonprofit healthcare providers’ extremely conservative risk management in today’s uncertain economy.
Healthcare public debt issuance in the first quarter of 2023 was down almost 70 percent compared to the first quarter of 2022. While not the only funding channel for not-for-profit healthcare organizations,
the level of public debt issuance is a bellwether for the ambition of the sector’s capital formation strategies.
While health systems have plenty of reasons to be cautious about credit management right now, it’s important not to underrate the dangers of being too risk averse. As Jordahl puts it: “Retrenchment might be the right risk management choice in times of crisis, but once that crisis moderates that same strategy can quickly become a risk driver.”
The Gist: Given current market conditions, there are a host of good reasons why caution reigns among nonprofit health systems, but this current holding pattern for capital spending endangers their future competitiveness and potentially even their survival.
Nonprofit systems aren’t just at risk of losing a competitive edge to vertically integrated payers, whom the pandemic market treated far more kindly in financial terms, but also to for-profit national systems, like HCA and Tenet, who have been flywheeling strong quarterly results into revamped growth and expansion plans.
Health systems should be wary of becoming stuck on defense while the competition is running up the score.
In healthcare, as in life, people devote a lot of time and attention to the way things should be. They’d be better off focusing on what actually could be.
As an example, 57% to 70% of American voters believe our nation “should” adopt a single-payer healthcare system like Medicare For All. Likewise, public health advocates insist that more of the nation’s $4 trillion healthcare budget “should” be spent on combating the social determinants of health: things like housing insecurity, low-wage jobs and other socioeconomic stresses. Neither of these ideas will happen, nor will dozens of positive healthcare solutions that “should” happen.
When the things that should happen don’t, there’s always a reason. In healthcare, the biggest roadblock to change is what I call the conglomerate of monopolies, which includes hospitals, drug companies, private-equity-staked physicians and commercial health insurers. These powerful entities exert monopolistic control over the delivery and financing of the country’s medical care. And they remain fiercely opposed to any change in healthcare that would limit their influence or income.
This article concludes my five-part series on medical monopolies with an explanation of why (a) “should” won’t happen in healthcare but (b) industrywide disruption will.
Why government won’t lead the way
With the U.S. Senate split 51-49 and with virtually no chance of either party securing the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Congress will, at most, tinker with the medical system. That means no Medicare For All and no radical redistribution of healthcare funds.
Even if elected officials started down the path of major reform, healthcare’s incumbents would lobby, threaten to withhold campaign contributions (which have exceeded $700 million annually for the past three years) and swat down any legislative effort that might harm their interests.
In American politics, money talks. That won’t change soon, even if voters believe it should.
American employers won’t lead, either
Private payers wield significant power and influence of their own. In fact, the Fortune 500 represents two-thirds of the U.S. GDP, generating more than $16 trillion in revenue. And they provide health insurance to more than half the American population.
With all that clout, you’d think business executives would demand more from healthcare’s conglomerate of monopolies. You might assume they’d want to push back against the prevailing “fee for service” payment model, replacing it with a form of reimbursement that rewards doctors and hospitals for the quality (not quantity) of care they provide. You’d think they would insist that employees get their care through technologically advanced, multispecialty medical groups, which deliver superior outcomes when compared to solo physician practices.
Instead, companies take a more passive position. In fact, employers are willing to shoulder 5% to 6% increases in insurance premiums each year (double their average rate of revenue growth) without putting up much or any resistance.
One reason they tolerate hefty rate hikes—rather than battling insurers, hospitals and doctors— involves a surprising truth about insurance premiums. Business leaders have figured out how to transfer much of their added premium costs to employees in the form of high-deductible health plans. A high deductible plan forces the beneficiary to pay “first dollar” for their medical care, which significantly reduces the premium cost paid by the employer.
Businesses also realize that high deductibles will only financially burden employees who experience an unexpected, catastrophic illness or accident. Meaning, most workers won’t feel the sting in a typical year. As for employees with ongoing, expensive medical problems, employers typically don’t mind watching them walk out the door over high out-of-pocket costs. Their departures only reduce the company’s medical spend in future years.
Finally, businesses know that employee medical costs are tax deductible, which cushions the impact of premium increases. So, what starts as a 6% annual increase ends up costing employees 3%, the government 1% and businesses only 2%. In today’s strong labor market, which boasts the lowest unemployment rate in 54 years, businesses are reluctant to demand changes from healthcare’s biggest players—regardless of whether they should.
Leading the healthcare transformation
If there were a job opening for “Leader of the American Healthcare Revolution,” the applicant pool would be shallow.
Elected officials would shy away, fearing the loss of campaign contributions. Businesses and top executives would pass on the opportunity, preferring to shift insurance costs to employees and the government. Patients would feel overwhelmed by the task and the power of the incumbents. Doctors, nurses and hospitals—despite their frustrations with the current system—would want to take small steps, fearful of the conglomerate of monopolies and the risks of disruptive change.
To revolutionize American medicine, a leader must possess three characteristics:
Sufficient size and financial reserves to disrupt the entire industry (not just a small piece of it).
Presence across the country to leverage economies of scale.
Willingness to accept the risks of radical change in exchange for the potential to generate massive profits.
Whoever leads the way won’t make these investments because it “should happen.” They will take the chance because the upside is dramatically better than sitting on the sidelines.
The likely winner: American retailers
Amazon, CVS, Walmart and other retail giants are the only entities that fit the revolutionary criteria above. In healthcare’s game of monopoly, they’re the ones willing to take high-stakes risks and capable of disrupting the industry.
For years, these retailers have been acquiring the necessary game pieces (including pharmacy services, health-insurance capabilities and innovative care-delivery organizations) to someday take over American healthcare.
CVS Health owns health insurer Aetna. It bought value-based care company Signify Health for $8 billion, along with national primary care provider OakStreet Health for $10.6 billion. Walmart recently entered into a 10-year partnership with the nation’s largest insurance company, UnitedHealth, gaining access to its 60,000 employed physicians. Walmart then acquired LHC, a massive home-health provider. Finally, Amazon recently purchased primary-care provider One Medical for $3.9 billion and maintains close ties with nearly all of the country’s self-funded businesses.
Harvard business professor Clay Christensen noted that disruptive change almost always comes from outsiders. That’s because incumbents cling to overly expensive and inefficient systems. The same holds true in American healthcare.
The retail giants can see that healthcare is exorbitantly priced, uncoordinated, inconvenient and technologically devoid. And they recognize the hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue and they could earn by offering a consumer-focused, highly efficient alternative.
How will the transformation happen?
Initially, I believe the retail giants will take a two-pronged approach. They’ll (a) continue to promote fee-for-service medical services through their pharmacies and retail clinics (in-store and virtual) while (b) embracing every opportunity to grow their market share in Medicare Advantage, the capitated option for people over age 65.
And within Medicare Advantage, they’ll look for ways to leverage sophisticated IT systems and economies of scale, thus providing care that is better coordinated, technologically supported and lower cost than what’s available now.
Rather than including all community doctors in their network, they’ll rely on their own clinicians, augmented by a limited cohort of the highest-performing medical groups in the area. And rather than including every hospital as an inpatient option, they’ll contract with highly respected centers of excellence for procedures like heart surgery, neurosurgery, total-joint replacement and transplants, trading high volume for low prices.
Over time, they’ll reach out to self-funded businesses to offer proven, superior clinical outcomes, plus guaranteed, lower total costs. Then they’ll make a capitated model their preferred insurance plan for all companies and individuals. Along the way, they’ll apply consumer-driven medical technologies, including next generations of ChatGPT, to empower patients, provide continuous care for people with chronic diseases and ensure the medical care provided is safe and most efficacious.
Tommy Lasorda, the long-time manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, once remarked, “There are three types of people. Those who watch what happens, those that make it happen and those who wonder what just happened.”
Lasorda’s quip describes healthcare today. The incumbents are watching closely but failing to see the big picture as retailer acquire medical groups and home health capabilities. The retail giants are making big moves, assembling the pieces needed to completely transform American medicine as we think of it today. Finally, tens of thousands of clinicians and thousands of hospital administrators are either ignoring or underestimating the retail giants. And, when they get left behind, they’ll wonder: What just happened?
The conglomerate of monopolies rule medicine today. Amazon, CVS and Walmart believe they should rule. And if I had to bet on who will win, I’d put my money on the retail giants.
This week, a health system CFO referenced the thoughts we shared last week about many hospitals rethinking physician employment models, and looking to pull back on employing more doctors, given current financial challenges. He said, “We’ve employed more and more doctors in the hope that we’re building a group that will allow us to pivot to total cost management.
But we can’t get risk, so we’ve justified the ‘losses’ on physician practices by thinking we’re making it up with the downstream volume the medical group delivers.
But the reality now is that we’re losing money on most of that downstream business. If we just keep adding doctors that refer us services that don’t make a margin, it’s not helping us.”
While his comment has myriad implications for the physician organization, it also highlights a broader challenge we’ve heard from many health system executives: a smaller and smaller portion of the business is responsible for the overall system margin.
While the services that comprise the still-profitable book vary by organization (NICU, cardiac procedures, some cancer management, complex orthopedics, and neurosurgery are often noted), executives have been surprised how quickly some highly profitable service lines have shifted. One executive shared, “Orthopedics used to be our most profitable service line. But with rising labor costs and most of the commercial surgeries shifting outpatient, we’re losing money on at least half of it.”
These conversations highlight the flaws in the current cross-subsidy based business model. Rising costs, new competitors, and a challenging contracting environment have accelerated the need to find new and sustainable models to deliver care, plan for growth and footprint—and find a way to get paid that aligns with that future vision.
Radio Advisory’s Rachel Woods sat down with Advisory Board‘s Aaron Mauck and Natalie Trebes to talk about where leaders need to focus their attention on longer-term industry challenges—like growing competition, behavioral health infrastructure, and finding success in value-based care.
Rachel Woods: So I’ve been thinking about the last conversation that we had about what executives need to know to be prepared to be successful in 2023, and I feel like my big takeaway is that the present feels aggressively urgent. The business climate today is extraordinarily tough, there are all these disruptive forces that are changing the competitive landscape, right? That’s where we focused most of our last conversation.
But we also agreed that those were still kind of near-term problems. My question is why, if things feel like they are in such a crisis, do we need to also focus our attention on longer term challenges?
Aaron Mauck: It’s pretty clear that the business environment really isn’t sustainable as it currently stands, and there’s a tendency, of course, for all businesses to focus on the urgent and important items at the expense of the non-urgent and important items. And we have a lot of non-urgent important things that are coming on the horizon that we have to address.
Obviously, you think about the aging population. We have the baby boom reaching an age where they’re going to have multiple care needs that have to be addressed that constitute pretty significant challenges. That aging population is a central concern for all of us.
Costly specialty therapeutics that are coming down the pipeline that are going to yield great results for certain patient segments, but are going to be very expensive. Unmanaged behavioral needs, disagreements around appropriate spending. So we have lots of challenges, myriad of challenges we’re going to have to address simultaneously.
Natalie Trebes: Yeah, that’s right. And I would add that all of those things are at threshold moments where they are pivoting into becoming our real big problems that are very soon going to be the near term problems. And the environment that we talked about last time, it’s competitive chaos that’s happening right now, is actually the perfect time to be making some changes because all the challenges we’re going to talk about require really significant restructuring of how we do business. That’s hard to do when things are stable.
Woods: Yes. But I still think you’re going to get some people who disagree. And let me tell you why. I think there’s two reasons why people are going to disagree. The first reason is, again, they are dealing with not just one massive fire in front of them, but what feels like countless massive fires in front of them that’s just demanding all of their strategic attention. That was the first thing you said every executive needs to know going into this year, and maybe not know, but accept, if I’m thinking about the stages of grief.
But the second reason why I think people are going to push back is the laundry list of things that Aaron just spoke of are areas where, I’m not saying the healthcare industry shouldn’t be focused on them, but we haven’t actually made meaningful progress so far.
Is 2023 actually the year where we should start chipping away at some of those huge industry challenges? That’s where I think you’re going to get disagreement. What do you say to that?
Trebes: I think that’s fair. I think it’s partly that we have to start transforming today and organizations are going to diverge from here in terms of how they are affected. So far, we’ve been really kind of sharing the pain of a lot of these challenges, it’s bits and pieces here. We’re all having to eat a little slice of this.
I think different organizations right now, if they are careful about understanding their vulnerabilities and thinking about where they’re exposed, are going to be setting themselves up to pass along some of that to other organizations. And so this is the moment to really understand how do we collectively want to address these challenges rather than continue to try to touch as little of it as we possibly can and scrape by?
Woods: That’s interesting because it’s also probably not just preparing for where you have vulnerabilities that are going to be exposed sooner rather than later, but also where might you have a first mover advantage? That gets back to what you were talking about when it comes to the kind of competitive landscape, and there’s probably people who can use these as an opportunity for the future.
Mauck: Crises are always opportunities and even for those players across the healthcare system who have really felt like they’re boxers in the later rounds covering up under a lot of blows, there’s opportunities for them to come back and devise strategies for the long term that really yield growth.
We shouldn’t treat this as a time just of contraction. There are major opportunities even for some of the traditional incumbents if they’re approaching these challenges in the right fashion. When we think about that in terms of things like labor or care delivery models, there’s huge opportunities and when I talk with C-suites from across the sector, they recognize those opportunities. They’re thinking in the long term, they need to think in the long term if they’re going to sustain themselves. It is a time of existential crisis, but also a time for existential opportunity.
Trebes: Yeah, let’s be real, there is a big risk of being a first mover, but there is a really big opportunity in being on the forefront of designing the infrastructure and setting the table of where we want to go and designing this to work for you. Because changes have to happen, you really want to be involved in that kind of decision making.
Woods: And in the vein of acceptance, we should all accept that this isn’t going to be easy. The challenges that I think we want to focus on for the rest of this conversation are challenges that up to this point have seemed unsolvable. What are the specific areas that you think should really demand executive attention in 2023?
Trebes: Well, I think they break into a few different categories. We are having real debates about how do we decide what are appropriate outcomes in healthcare? And so the concept of measuring value and paying for value. We have to make some decisions about what trade-offs we want to make there, and how do we build in health equity into our business model and do we want to make that a reality for everyone?
Another category is all of the expensive care that we have to figure out how to deliver and finance over the coming years. So we’re talking about the already inadequate behavioral health infrastructure that’s seen a huge influx in demand.
We’re talking about what Aaron mentioned, the growing senior population, especially with boomers getting older and requiring a lot more care, and the pipeline of high-cost therapies. All of this is not what we are ready as the healthcare system as it exists today to manage appropriately in a financially sustainable way. And that’s going to be really hard for purchasers who are financing all of this.
In an Oct. 5, 2022, commentary, Ken Kaufman offers a full-throated and heartfelt defense of non-profit healthcare during a time of significant financial hardship. Ken describes 2022 as “the worst financial year for hospitals in memory.” His concern is legitimate. The foundations of the nonprofit healthcare business model appear to be collapsing. I’ve known and worked with Ken Kaufman for decades. He is the life force behind Kaufman Hall, a premier financial and strategic advisor to nonprofit hospitals and health systems. The American Hospital Association uses Kaufman Hall’s analysis of hospitals’ underlying financial trends to support its plea for Congressional funding. Beyond the red ink, Ken laments the “media free-for-all challenging the tax-exempt status, financial practices, and ostensible market power of not-for-profit hospitals and health systems.” He is referring to three recent investigative reports on nonprofits’ skimpy levels of charity care (Wall Street Journal), aggressive collection tactics (New York Times) and 340B drug purchasing program abuses (New York Times). Ken has never been timid about expressing his opinions. He’s passionate, partisan and proud. His defense of nonprofit healthcare chronicles their selfless care of critically ill patients, the 24/7 demands on their resources and their commitment to treating the uninsured. These “must have clinical services…don’t just magically appear.” Nonprofit healthcare needs “our support and validation in the face of extreme economic conditions and organizational headwinds. ”Given his personality, it’s not surprising that Ken’s strident rhetoric in defending nonprofit healthcare reminds me of the famous “You can’t handle the truth” exchange between Lieutenant Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) from the 1992 movie “A Few Good Men.” Kaffee presses Jessup on whether he ordered a “code red” that led to the death of a soldier under his command. When Kaffee declares he’s entitled to the truth, Jessup erupts,… I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man that rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you say, “thank you” and be on your way. Should American society just say “thank you” to nonprofit healthcare and provide the massive incremental funding required to sustain their current operations?
Truth and Consequences (Download PDF here)The social theorist Thomas Sowell astutely observed, “If you want to help someone, tell them the truth. If you want to help yourself, tell them what they want to hear.” In this commentary, Ken Kaufman is telling nonprofit healthcare exactly what they want to hear. The truth is more nuanced, troubling and inconvenient. Healthcare now consumes 20 percent of the national economy and the American people are sicker than ever. Despite the high healthcare funding levels, the CDC recently reported in U.S. life expectancy dropped almost a full year in 2021. Other wealthy nations experienced increases in life expectancy. Combining 2020 and 2021, the 2.7-year drop in U.S. life expectancy is the largest since the early 1920s. During an interview regarding the September 28, 2022, White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, Senator Cory Booker highlighted two facts that capture America’s healthcare dilemma. One in three government dollars funds healthcare expenditure. Half of Americans suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetes.As a nation, we’re chasing our tail by prioritizing treatment over prevention. Particularly in low-income rural and urban communities, there is a breathtaking lack of vital primary care, disease management and mental health services. Instead of preventing disease, our healthcare system has become adept at keeping sick people alive with a diminished life quality. There is plenty of money in the system to amputate a foot but little to manage the diabetes that necessitates the amputation. Despite mission statements to the contrary, nonprofit healthcare follows the money. The only meaningful difference between nonprofit and for-profit healthcare is tax status. Each seeks to maximize treatment revenues by manipulating complex payment formularies and using market leverage to negotiate higher commercial payment rates. According to Grandview Research, the market for revenue cycle management in 2022 is $140.4 billion and forecasted to grow at a 10% annual rate through 2030. By contrast, Ibis World forecasts the U.S. automobile market to grow 2.6% in 2022 to reach $100.9 billion. Unbelievably, in today’s America, processing medical claims is far more lucrative than manufacturing and selling cars and trucks. According to CMS’s National Expenditure Report for 2020, hospitals (31%) and physicians and clinical services (20%) accounted for over half of national healthcare expenditures. This included $175 billion allocated to providers through the CARES Act. Despite the massive waste embedded within healthcare delivery, the CARES Act funding gave providers the illusion that America would continue to fund its profligate and often ineffective operations. It’s not at all surprising that healthcare providers now want, even expect, more emergency funding. Change is hard. Not even during COVID did providers give up their insistence on volume-based payment. Providers did not embrace proven virtual care and hospital-at-home business practices until CMS guaranteed equivalent payment to existing in-hospital/clinic service provision. Even with parity payment and the massive CARES Act funding, there was uneven care access for COVID patients. Particularly in low-income communities, tens of thousands died because they did not receive appropriate care. More of the same approach to healthcare delivery will yield more of the same dismal results. Healthcare providers have had over a decade to advance value-based care (VBC). I define VBC as the right care at the right time in the right place at the right price. Instead of pursuing VBC, providers have doubled-down on volume-driven business models that attract higher-paying commercially-insured patients. Despite the relative ease of migrating service provision to lower-cost settings, providers insist on operating high-cost, centralized delivery models (think hospitals). They want society, writ large, to continue paying premium prices for routine care. It’s time to stop. As a country, we need less healthcare and more health.
When I give speeches to healthcare audiences, I typically begin with three yes-or-no questions about U.S. healthcare to establish the foundation for my subsequent observations. Here they are. Question #1: The U.S. spends 20% of its economy on healthcare. The big country with the next highest percentage spend is France at 12%. How many believe we need to spend more than 20% of our economy to provide great healthcare to everyone in the country? No one ever raises their hand. Question #2: The CDC estimates that 90% of healthcare expenditure goes to treat individuals with chronic disease and mental health conditions. How many believe we’re winning the war against chronic disease and mental health conditions? No one ever raises their hand. Question #3: Given the answer to the previous two questions, how many believe the system needs to shift resources from acute and specialty care into health promotion, primary care, chronic disease management and behavioral health? Everyone raises their hands. This short exercise is quite revealing. It demonstrates that healthcare doesn’t have a funding problem. It has a distribution problem. It also demonstrates that providers aren’t adequately addressing our most critical healthcare challenge, exploding chronic disease and mental health conditions. Finally, the industry needs major restructuring.
The real questions about reforming healthcare are less about what to reform and more about how to undertake reform. The increasing media scrutiny that Ken Kaufman references as well as growing consumer frustrations with healthcare service provision, demonstrate that healthcare is losing the battle for America’s hearts and minds.
Markets are unforgiving. The operating losses most nonprofit providers are experiencing reflect a harsh reality. Their current business models are not sustainable. An economic reckoning is underway. The long arc of economics points toward value. As healthcare deconstructs, the nation’s acute care footprint will shrink, hospitals will close and value-based care delivery will advance. The process will be messy.
The devolving healthcare marketplace led me to ask a fourth question recently in Nashville during a keynote speech to the Council of Pharmacy Executives and Suppliers. Here it is. Question #4: As the healthcare system reforms, will that process be evolutionary (reflecting incremental change) or revolutionary (reflecting fundamental change). Two-thirds voted that the change would be revolutionary. That response is just one data point but it reflects why post-COVID healthcare reform is different than the reform efforts that have preceded it. The costs of maintaining status-quo healthcare are simply too high. From a policy perspective, either market-driven healthcare reforms will drive better outcomes at lower costs (that’s my hope) or America will shift to a government-managed healthcare system like those in Germany, France and Japan.
Like Ken Kaufman, I admire frontline healthcare workers and believe we need to make their vital work less burdensome. I also sympathize with health system executives who are struggling to overcome legacy business practices and massive operating deficits. Unfortunately, most are relying on revenue-maximizing playbooks rather than reconfiguring their operations to advance consumerism and value-based care delivery.
Unlike Ken Kaufman, I believe it’s time for some tough love with nonprofit healthcare providers. Payers must tie new incremental funding to concrete movement into value-based care delivery. This was the argument Zeke Emanuel, Merrill Goozner and I made in a two-part commentary (part 1; part 2) in Health Affairs earlier this year. It’s also why the HFMA, where I serve on the Board, has made “cost effectiveness of health (CEoH)” its new operating mantra.
While this truth may be hard, it also is liberating. Freeing nonprofit organizations from their attachment to perverse payment incentives can create the impetus to embrace consumerism and value. Kinder, smarter and affordable care for all Americans will follow.
Nonprofit hospitals are reporting thinner margins this year, stretched by rising labor, supply and capital costs, and will be pressed to make big changes to their business models or risk negative rating actions, Fitch Ratings said in a report out Tuesday.
Warning that it could take years for provider margins to recover to pre-pandemic levels, Fitch outlined a series of steps necessary to manage the inflationary pressures. Those moves include steeper rate increases in the short term and “relentless, ongoing cost-cutting and productivity improvements” over the medium term, the ratings agency said.
Further out on the horizon, “improvement in operating margins from reduced levels will require hospitals to make transformational changes to the business model,” Fitch cautioned.
It has been a rough year so far for U.S. hospitals, which are navigating labor shortages, rising operating costs and a rebound in healthcare utilization that has followed the suppressed demand of the early pandemic.
Fitch said the majority of the hospitals it follows have strong balance sheets that will provide a cushion for a period of time. But with cost inflation at levels not seen since the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the potential for additional coronavirus surges this fall and winter, more substantial changes to hospitals’ business models could be necessary to avoid negative rating actions, the agency said.
Providers will look to secure much higher rate increases from commercial payers. However, insurers are under similar pressures as hospitals and will push back, using leverage gained through the sector’s consolidation, the report said.
As a result, commercial insurers’ rate increases are likely to exceed those of recent years, but remain below the rate of inflation in the short term, Fitch said. Further, federal budget deficits make Medicare or Medicaid rate adjustments to offset inflation unlikely.
Inflation is pushing more providers to consider mergers and acquisitions to create economies of scale, Fitch said. But regulators are scrutinizing deals more strenuously due to concerns that consolidation will push prices even higher. With increased capital costs, rising interest rates and ongoing supply chain disruptions, hospitals’ plans for expansion or renovations will cost more or may be postponed, the report said.
Embarking on a new strategy requires myriad organizational changes—which will inevitably come with losses. Some parts of the business, people, roles, processes, and traditions will inevitably be deemphasized, or even eliminated from the organization. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review identifies how leaders launching new strategies typically spend a significant amount of time trying to plan for the unpredictable future, while overlooking one of the most predictable parts of any change in strategy: what will be lost when something else is gained.
The Gist: It is critical to identify, acknowledge, and plan for these losses in adopting any new strategy, as the unexpressed fear of loss is a key driver of organizational inertia and resistance to change.
With health systems deep in strategy development for the post-COVID market, leaders must takeinto account the wide range of challenges their organizations will face when it comes to reconfiguring investment, growth, competencies, and people, in addition to focusing on new areas of opportunity revealed by the pandemic.
Failing to confront these tradeoffs head-on may sacrifice any strategic gains resulting from new initiatives.
Tampa, Fla.-based Shriners Hospitals for Children is transitioning its Springfield, Mass., campus into an outpatient clinic model, NBC/CW affiliate WWLP reported April 20.
Current outpatient services won’t be affected, except that ambulatory surgery will end.
The hospital gave the Massachusetts Department of Public Health a 120-day notice of the plan on March 31, Western Mass News reported April 20.
“The advancement of surgical procedures has resulted in very few patients requiring admission for inpatient pediatric services, which are the cornerstone of a hospital facility,” Shriners said in a letter obtained by Western Mass News. “Accordingly, after evaluating the needs of our patients, we have determined that Shriners Hospitals for Children may best serve our patients and fulfill our charitable mission by transitioning this location from a hospital to an outpatient clinic model.”
Insurers, retailers, and other healthcare companies vastly exceed health system scale, dwarfing even the largest hospital systems. The graphic above illustrates how the largest “mega-systems” lag other healthcare industry giants, in terms of gross annual revenue.
Amazon and Walmart, retail behemoths that continue to elbow into the healthcare space, posted 2021 revenue that more than quintuples that of the largest health system, Kaiser Permanente. The largest health systems reported increased year-over-year revenue in 2021, largely driven by higher volumes, as elective procedures recovered from the previous year’s dip.
However, according to a recent Kaufman Hall report, while health systems, on average, grew topline revenue by 15 percent year-over-year, they face rising expenses, and have yet to return to pre-pandemic operating margins.
Meanwhile, the larger companies depicted above, including Walmart, Amazon, CVS Health, and UnitedHealth Group, are emerging from the pandemic in a position of financial strength, and continue to double down on vertical integration strategies, configuring an array of healthcare assets into platform businesses focused on delivering value directly to consumers.