A lot of fingers have been burned putting out the fires that have singed the healthcare enterprise this year. So it's likely that when the final chapter on 2000 is written, few will look back on the year with great nostalgia.
For starters, the world of e-commerce and Internet technology has virtually imploded. High profile healthcare examples include drkoop.com and WebMD Corp., whose very futures appear in doubt. Medicalbuyer.com, attempting to survive in the crowded field of online medical purchasing, failed because it was unable to lure suppliers with big blocks of business and burned through cash rapidly.
On the highly competitive West Coast, medical groups have been pummeled in reimbursement battles. A $30 million bailout from major health plans for KPC Medical Management failed to put the giant practice management company's financial house in order. It continues to gush red ink, jeopardizing medical practices and leaving patient care in a state of uncertainty.
In the world of politics, things last month went from the bizarre to the ridiculous. The president-elect will move into the White House with the narrowest of margins. Meanwhile, Congress is almost evenly divided.
Savvy physician leaders will find opportunity in the chaos, however. They will begin by accepting the fact that government gridlock is going to get worse, not better, making passage of major new healthcare legislation unlikely. The two major campaign issues, finding a compromise on a prescription drug benefit and a patient bill of rights, would be tough to implement in an environment that was open to compromise and conciliation. Given the levels of partisanship and rancor rising as a result of the fight to claim the presidency, any legislative changes that do result will be small and incremental.
So once again, individual organizations will find they hold their destiny in their own hands. The crazy idea, formulated by new economy partisans, that the traditional ways of responding in business organizations are passe has been proven to be bogus. The old values are very much in force. High quality managers are important, so are quality products and services.
It's a lesson that KPC appears not to have learned. Neither did MedPartners nor PhyCor before it. Others who fail to learn it will end up with their fingers burned as well.