To keep up with big changes in how healthcare is administered, financed, and organized, top leaders are finding a need for new talents and organizational structures.
Healthcare reform as a term has become so ubiquitous that it is almost indefinable. At first, and broadly, it meant removing the waste in an excessively expensive healthcare system that too often added to the problems of the people whose health it aimed to improve. Then it became legislative and regulatory, in the form of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its incentives aimed at improving the continuum of care and expanding the pool of those covered by health insurance.
Now, for many in the industry, healthcare reform has matured into a business imperative: the process of ingraining tactics, strategies, and reimbursement changes so that health systems improve quality and efficiency with the parallel goal of weaning us all off a system in which incentives have been so misaligned that neither quality nor efficiency was rewarded.
That leaders finally are able to translate healthcare reform into action is welcome, but to many health systems trying to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing business environment, the old maxim that all healthcare is local is being proved true. Making sense of healthcare reform is up to individual organizations and their unique local circumstances. Fortunately, there are some broad themes and organizational principles that are helpful for all that are trying to make this transition. What works in one place won’t necessarily work in another, but the innovation level is off the charts as healthcare organization leaders reshape what being a leading healthcare organization means as well as what it requires.
What happens outside the hospital is increasingly important to success, so healthcare leaders need to influence or control care across the continuum.
If you’re running a hospital, one irony in the transformation toward value in healthcare is that your future success will be determined by care decisions that take place largely outside your four walls. If you’re running a health system with a variety of care sites and business entities other than acute care, the hospital’s importance is critical, but its place at the top of the healthcare economic chain is in jeopardy.
Certainly, the hospital is the most expensive site of care, so hospital care is still critically important in a business sense, no matter the payment model. But if it’s true that demonstrating value in healthcare will ensure long-term success—a notion that is frustratingly still debatable—nonacute care is where the action is.
For the purposes of developing and executing strategy, one has to assume that healthcare eventually will conform to the laws of economics—that is, that higher costs will discourage consumption at some level. That means delivering value is a worthy goal in itself despite the short-term financial pain it will cause—never mind the moral imperative to efficiently spend limited healthcare dollars.
So no longer can hospitals exist in an ivory tower of fee-for-service. Unquestionably, outcomes are becoming a bigger part of the reimbursement calculus, which means hospitals and health systems need a strategy to ensure their long-term relevance. They can do that as the main cog in the value chain, shepherding the healthcare experience, a preferable position; but physicians, health plans, and others are also vying for that role. Even if hospitals or health systems can engineer such a leadership role, acute care is high cost and to be discouraged when possible.
Multispecialty hubs that integrate office-based primary and specialty care with traditional emergency department functions have improved clinical care, increased access and lowered costs compared with the traditional model of medical offices and community hospital EDs, according to the Kaiser Permanente executives pioneering the hub model.
Kaiser Permanente, Mid-Atlantic States (KPMAS) pioneered the multispecialty hub model beginning in 2012 with five full-service medical buildings, each of which serves about 100,000 patients in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, according to an article in NEJM Catalyst.