Healthcare's Grim Winter Feels Endless

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , March 1, 2013

Some of the mergers most certainly won't work. Some will work brilliantly. Undoubtedly we'll see even more interest in data sharing as hospitals, health systems, and health plans must work more closely together to cut waste in healthcare.

This is the type of waste that comes from defensive medicine and suboptimal treatment protocols masquerading as no protocols at all—not from bad laundry contracts or even from obtaining sales concessions from drug and device manufacturers.

Spring will likely come in the form of changing the practice of medicine—a much more difficult leap.

Some health systems and health plans will likely even take the step of combining operations. There's already the attempt by Highmark in Pennsylvania to acquire the troubled West Penn Allegheny health system in order to better compete with UPMC.

And did anyone notice that the nation's largest health plan, WellPoint, with health plans in 14 states, has named a hospital guy, Joe Swedish, from Trinity Health, to lead it as CEO? He starts work there March 25. How long before discussions begin with major health systems about big data partnerships and shared risk/reward agreements, if not acquisition? I have no special inside information, but I'll bet my antibiotics they start before his first cup of coffee gets cold.

Financial pressure to do these types of deals will not relent. The hospitals and systems active in mergers and acquisitions, from the smallest primary care physician practice to multi-hospital systems think they have a solution. There is high risk involved, of course, but at least they have a plan.

What's your strategy?

Philip Betbeze is senior leadership editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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