It's time to start thinking about the future, specifically about how your organization will cope in 2001.
From an industry cost standpoint, it looks ugly. Inflation in the healthcare sector is expected to explode next year. Health plans will raise their rates 10% or more. Drug spending may increase by nearly 20% because of consumer demand and an influx of new products. Physician incomes are starting to inch up. Nursing and support-staff costs are skyrocketing.
Not much of this extra cash will find its way to hospitals' and health systems' bottom lines. It will be a tough year, even for those able to raise rates and negotiate more favorable managed-care contracts.
And then there's the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Some analysts are predicting that hospitals will invest as much as four times what they spent on Y2K to conform with HIPAA. But HIPAA--which requires a standardized, systematic approach to the flow and security of healthcare information--is far more than an information technology issue. Healthcare managers should consider it an essential and pivotal part of the organization's operational strategy.
Yet only about half of all hospitals have undertaken the steps necessary to prepare for HIPAA compliance. Nearly another third of hospital executives responding to a First Consulting Group survey have earmarked limited funding to tackle the data-management mandates. Frighteningly, one in 10 hospitals lacks even a bare-bones HIPAA strategy or budget.
If nothing else, the information security component of HIPAA requires adequate funding, a multidisciplinary approach and strong chief executive officer support. Information technology is part of the solution, but leadership and commitment must come from the top.
Routine fiscal pressures of healthcare management can be overwhelming. But that's no excuse. HIPAA will likely forge the future of hospital initiatives in e-commerce, e-health, electronic data interchange and computerized patient records. Find a way to do it right.