National healthcare reform will love the outpatient-care segment of the rehabilitation industry.
Under the Clinton administration's plan for reform, providers of rehabilitation-care services could emerge as big winners. The plan embraces many elements of rehabilitation care, particularly the idea of returning injured patients to work as quickly as possible.
In preparation for reform, expect consolidation to continue, especially as providers experiment with ways to provide less costly services through acquisitions or joint ventures.
In addition, business conversions will be on the upswing as rehabilitation providers begin changing the way they deliver care. They'll shift their attention from inpatient care to expanding outpatient services and will make subacute care a new part of the rehabilitation-care delivery system.
Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based Continental and other major rehabilitation players will continue to grow by gobbling up independently owned clinics and physician offices that offer physical and occupational therapy.
Also driving consolidation will be changing patient referral patterns and stepped-up payer efforts to choose providers based on quality and efficiency.
With healthcare buyers becoming more cost-sensitive, the push into subacute care will pick up steam as providers such as Tacoma, Wash.-based Hillhaven Corp. lead the way.
Santa Monica, Calif.-based National Medical Enterprises is still feeling the sting of lawsuits and federal and state probes of its psychiatric hospitals. The situation affects such head-injury providers as Lynn, Mass.-based New Medico Health Systems and Newton, Mass.-based Greenery, which sold the bulk of their rehabilitation facilities in 1993 after the head-injury segment of rehabilitation care suffered from its close association with the psychiatric field.
As in all areas of the healthcare industry, the successful rehabilitation providers in 1994 will have established strong alliances and regional networks that combine inpatient and outpatient care with various specialties, including occupational and sports rehabilitation.