By Bob Clarke
Furst Group CEO
When the dust settled on the 2012 elections, healthcare leaders could finally exhale and look out at a landscape that had a bit more certainty about the future. For one thing, healthcare reform emerged as a winner, just as it had five months earlier in the Supreme Court. But the certainty of reform’s forward momentum means there won’t be any dust on the calendars of healthcare decision-makers, who have much to do in a short amount of time as reform’s deadlines approach.
Beyond that busyness, here are a few trends to keep your eye on in 2013:
The march of the ACOs and exchanges. The number of ACOs continues to grow as reform takes hold as a reality. Tellingly, for-profits are sitting this one out. And when it comes to exchanges, a number of GOP-controlled states are opting for the sidelines as well, as the government scrambles to get its own infrastructure up and running in those vacuums. Will it be ready in time? Hard to say.
Political fireworks. Reform remains a divisive force in the land, with congressional GOP leaders still looking for ways to block its implementation. Obamacare is even more of a lightning rod at the state level. For example, nine Wisconsin lawmakers want to pass a bill that would allow the state to arrest any federal workers who attempt to enforce the ACA’s requirements in their state.
Learn the lingo. Former Modern Healthcare editor David Burda notes that “Manage by Medicare” and “What’s your number?” are the new catchphrases in the healthcare industry as organizations wrestle with ways to cut operating costs so they can stay in business at a time when Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates are dropping.
Whose job is it anyway? DaVita buys Newt Gingrich’s think tank. Duke and Lifepoint team up. Health systems roll out insurance products. Insurers buy hospitals. Look for more of the above as consolidations continue – not just consolidation of care, but of financing and insurance.
Watch the quiet giant. We can talk all we want about United, Wellpoint, CHA or Kindred. They have a large footprint in the industry and deservedly so. But watch to see what Walmart does in 2013. They are already providing immunizations. They recently contracted with the likes of Mayo Clinic and Geisinger to provide certain types of free operations for employees. On the financial side, they recently partnered with American Express to provide free checking accounts to consumers. What’s next?
Squeeze play. Many independent community and rural hospitals are carefully considering their future, as the swell of mergers and acquisitions imposes unwanted pressure. Some have joined systems or affiliated with a larger player, but many believe they have a commitment to their community to stand alone and resist the pressure.
A new breed of executive. Not that long ago, many healthcare executives didn’t even have smartphones. The healthcare leaders of the future will need a skill set that incorporates technological savvy with the proliferation of IT. But they’ll also need to be skilled in assessing risk like an underwriter, predictive modeling, and understanding analytics to measure clinical and financial performance. Watch to see a new generation of leaders begin to make their mark in an industry where most of the workers, including the C-suite, view their jobs as a calling.