Even "general" hospitals should start thinking specialization.
Doing something better, faster and cheaper than the competition can position your organization for success in the volatile healthcare marketplace.
The volatility is, of course, driven by the desire to cut costs and improve quality. But it also creates opportunities for those facilities that can outperform competitors in individual procedures or in treating a particular medical condition.
In last week's Commentary, Thomas Priselac, president and chief executive officer of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, emphasized the importance of introducing new programs and eliminating others that have run their course.
Harvard Professor Regina Herzlinger, author of Market-Driven Health Care, believes providers should consider a "focused factory" approach when undertaking a specialization strategy.
To fulfill that promise, Herzlinger writes, "the industry will have to resize--this is, replace its unfocused multipurpose providers and redundant, underutilized technology with muscular focused factories, loaded with cost-saving, quality-enhancing medical technology."
Focused factories may lay beyond the reach of some hospitals, but the opportunities are real. Consider, for example:
* Primary stroke centers, which would specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of strokes. A report in the June 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association spells out the severity of the problem and the cost of treating strokes, yet it says most hospitals lack the infrastructure and protocols necessary to excel in treatment.
* Hepatitis C programs, which would concentrate on managing a disease that consumes at least $15 billion per year in medical care, according to a study by Seattle-based healthcare consulting firm Milliman & Robertson.
* Pain-management clinics designed to contain both acute and chronic pain. The pain-management market is estimated at $18 billion a year. A study by Norwalk, Conn.-based Business Communications Co. predicts that figure will balloon to $32 billion by 2005.
Patients, payers and insurers will take notice of centers of excellence. It's up to you to develop and market the special services that make the most sense in your market.