Standalone Hospitals: An Endangered Species?

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , July 30, 2010

If your hospital doesn't have those attributes, well, you might be out of luck to either remain independent or be acquired. Something has to set you apart from the crowd to gain the kind of advantage that will drive patients to your door. But even that might not be enough. Nationally, we worry about the skyrocketing cost increases for healthcare. Nothing we try seems to stop it for long. But that doesn't keep people from trying.

Experience tells us that the cost of healthcare doesn't go down, no matter how many roadblocks legislators, companies, and health plans try to throw at it. Managed care was successful in holding down prices, but was an abject failure at building any support from the actual patients it was designed to cover. That's because people want as much healthcare as they can get. It's human nature.

I say all this because the many people who are calling for the wholesale demise of the standalone nonprofit hospital may be right when they say it's different this time. But I'm thinking they're more likely to be wrong. That doesn't mean there won't have to be adaptations by the ones that hope to thrive in the coming decade or so of healthcare reform legislation.

As a wise individual who has observed and been a part of the healthcare industry for more than three decades once told me, people still need and want healthcare close by. Despite all the worry and financial troubles of many nonprofit hospitals, "how often do you actually see one close?" he once asked me. "Not very often," he said, answering his own question.

That's true today, and I'll be surprised if it isn't still true 10 years from now.

Philip Betbeze is senior leadership editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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