What Does 2012 Hold for Healthcare?

The new year encourages us to make a few predictions and set goals for the coming year. As 2012 gets underway, I think it’s safe to say we all expect it to be another demanding year in healthcare.

HealthLeaders recently posted an article titled “4 Unpleasant Predictions for 2012.” While I’m not sure we want to start off the New Year with unpleasantness, a realistic approach is crucial. Using HealthLeaders’ annual survey, as well as her own conversations with healthcare CFOs, the author, Karen Minich-Pourshadi made her predictions for the top concerns facing healthcare financial leaders in 2012.

Her number-one prediction? Cost-cutting will intensify. In the 2011 industry survey, financial leaders ranked cost reductions as their number-one priority, up from second place in 2010. Those of us involved in healthcare are well aware of the mounting pressure on healthcare executives to do more with less: to get the highest value out of every system initiative — without sacrificing service, quality or safety.

Minich-Pourshadi wrote, “I anticipate that cost-cutting will become even more challenging in 2012. Although finance is not traditionally thought of as a ‘creative field,’ CFOs will need to come up with ingenious ways to save money.”

Now may be the time where overlooked areas, such as healthcare transportation, become an important consideration for CFOs. Healthcare transportation is a vital cog to keep the health system supply chain wheel—and an entire health system—running smoothly and effectively. A strong, centrally managed transportation function can facilitate the complementary centralization and leveragability of related departments (lab, mail, supplies, etc.), thereby enabling future strategic opportunities and growth.

And this brings me to the author’s third prediction for 2012: Growth becomes an imperative. Cutting costs is not enough; organizations must grow to survive. Today’s healthcare CFOs need to find additional ways to cut costs and find added value, while also positioning themselves to strategically grow in the future. It can’t be about cutting costs now only to mortgage the future. Thinking “creatively,” as Ms. Minich-Pourshadi suggests, may mean re-evaluating areas in one’s healthcare organization that have been taken for granted.

To meet the goal of cost reduction and growth requires strategic decision-making that takes a hard look at the way things are being done today, with an eye to how they can be done better tomorrow. Healthcare organizations will need to find strategic partners to develop the most targeted and studied solutions.

The past few years in healthcare have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Changes have been significant with more on the horizon. So, as 2012 gets fully underway, let’s hope that more healthcare organizations can increase efficiency and control while reducing waste and overlap.

Effectively cutting costs, while simultaneously facilitating strategic growth, isn’t impossible.  It just requires the right plan, the right leadership and the right partners.

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