If 1998 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger, healthcare providers should prepare to grab the tail of the twisting tiger of change.
Last week's annual MODERN HEALTHCARE outlook issue revealed that most providers expect that intense competition, jockeying for market position and developing integrated delivery networks will preoccupy their organizations in 1998.
That's a marked difference from the beginning of 1997, when most healthcare managers were watching to see how deeply Congress would slash Medicare spending. They also were busy monitoring their local markets for mergers, acquisitions and closures. Now that the smoke has cleared, systems can spend more time putting their strategic plans into action. Provider-sponsored organizations that intend to contract directly with Medicare beneficiaries, the continued refinement of integrated delivery networks and the costly expansion of information systems are just a few of the stories that will make headlines.
But we expect that providers also will closely monitor the federal government's healthcare fraud investigations as well as managed care's image problems. Despite the importance of these external forces, health systems are better off concentrating on physician integration and patient-focused initiatives.
Those managers who have survived re-engineering, downsizing, system integration and Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s relentless growth spree should consider themselves stronger and wiser. Strong in the fact that they can withstand change and wiser by knowing that the good-old, fat-and-sassy days of fee-for-service healthcare are never coming back.
Today's healthcare managers are far better equipped and prepared than their predecessors to tame the tiger of change. Ultimately, the successful executive will learn from past mistakes, rather than repeat them.