OK, help us out here.
We recognize that healthcare executives are facing a sizable amount of confusion these days. But some recent industry pronouncements don't quite add up. We're especially puzzled by the American Hospital Association's declaration that the way to regain patient trust in the current environment is for healthcare delivery organizations to become provider-service organizations, in essence recasting themselves as insurers. Surely the AHA doesn't believe insurers are more popular than hospital executives.
Many provider organizations, like San Diego-based ScrippsHealth, are moving more directly into the managed-care business to exert greater influence over the flow of patient-care spending and to position themselves to take advantage of coming changes in the Medicare program. But just as many large healthcare delivery systems are deciding to sever their managed-care operations. UniHealth, a Burbank, Calif.-based integrated delivery system, plans to evaluate the strategic and financial value of its HMO, CareAmerica, as a possible prelude to divestiture.
While there may be differing financial motivations for being involved in managed care, to do so in an effort to improve community relations is a dubious path to follow.
The AHA is to be commended for conducting research to better understand attitudes of patients who are dealing with more businesslike healthcare organizations. But in addition to patient gripes, such surveys need to address such issues as: How many integrated systems know how to track their costs? Does the ability to measure quality attract managed-care business? How many complaints relating to length-of-stay and denial of coverage have been filed against networks that operate their own HMOs?
In changing times, the most nimble organizations are best able to respond to marketplace changes. Integration efforts based on questionable motivations are bound to result in poor operating performance.