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How Health Reform will affect Hospital’s Business Strategy

Posted Jan 19 2012 10:25am

For many years, fee for service payment was the status quo. FFS model encourages hospitals to adopt the following strategies to maximize market share and profits:

  • Centered on short-term acute care
  • Focused on specialist alignment
  • Driven by a volume-based service-line strategy
  • Using expensive medical equipment purchases to encourage physician referrals
  • Attracting patients with new construction in support of market share growth
  • Short-term acute hospitals focus on profitable service lines such as oncology, cardiology, neurology, and orthopedics.

Specific examples of this growth are abundant.  In Indianapolis, all four of their hospital systems built coronary surgery centers at a combined cost of $210 million.  A community hospital 15 miles north of the city opened a smaller, open-heart surgery program.  In Cincinnati, nine hospitals performed open heart surgery. Eight Boston Hospitals Have da Vinci System, which may indicate that robotic surgery may be used for marketing purposes.

However,  health reform has started to change these trends.  Medicare is instituting more bundled payment (e.g., dialysis payments)  rather than pure fee-for-service.  Further, Medicare’s Shared Savings Program ( MSSP )  aims to use Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to coordinate patient care improve quality and reduce the rate of growth in health care spending.

How will hospitals respond to the changing market landscape?  One way hospitals can improve their margins is to only treat healthier patients to improve their performance in the case where risk adjustment methods are imprecise.  Also, provider mergers may be a trend. Access larger populations will lessen risk providers must bear under new payment models.  Larger size also means that hospitals can negotiate better rates with suppliers.  Hospitals will likely sell redundant or non-core assets.

Hospitals will also adopt new technology to better manage care. For instance, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit uses an embedded specialized software called RadPort in its electronic physician order entry system that prompts physicians to enter specific information when ordering radiology tests.  The pilot, funded with a CMS grant, will see whether these prompts will reduce utilization levels.

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