One of the most familiar complaints that any journalistic enterprise receives is this one: You print only bad news.
That is not true, of course. But it often seems that way because much of what the world considers news is different, out of the ordinary, a deviation from normalcy. We view good works, warm emotions and the bulk of daily life as commonplace. Conflict, disaster and evil are aberrations that get our attention.
Last week, however, Modern Healthcare told you about some positive developments in a negative milieu-turnarounds engineered by the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Centura Health in Colorado. While many voices cursed the darkness of Medicare payment tightening, these systems lighted the candle of self-help.
They dug themselves out of a financial hole by abandoning failed business strategies. Those include risk-sharing managed-care contracts, fragmented purchasing and money-losing physician practices and insurance ventures. Hospital lobbyists do not mention self-inflicted wounds such as these when beseeching the government for more money. But the bigger-is-better and vertical-integration strategies of the past decade clearly have hobbled much of the industry. UPHS and Centura deserve credit for facing facts and taking often painful action.
Praise also should go to North Mississippi Health Services, which is using its financial strength to pump millions into capital-improvement projects in the northeast corner of the state. Much of the money will aid the health system's extensive network of clinics and its focus on primary care. Such efforts can only help Mississippi, which traditionally ranks at or near the bottom in public health indicators.
We have a new administration in Washington that appears more interested in tax cuts than in any other government policy, including initiatives to improve healthcare. A slumping economy and lower taxes could deplete the federal treasury and turn the budget surplus into a short-lived phenomenon. The implications for Medicare, which will soon have to deal with retiring baby boomers, are ominous.
With little or no help from a soon-to-be-cash-strapped Uncle Sam, hospital executives should be prepared to administer medicine to their own institutions. If healthcare managers are looking for good news, they may have to make it themselves.