Meaningful Use: A Valuable Asset

computer_networkingOur last healthcare blog, Meaningful Use: A Valuable Asset, focused on utilizing Meaningful Use and the HITECH Act as a means to effect positive change.  We left off with the recommended shift to healthcare consumerism and provider relationship management.

What does that even mean? Healthcare consumerism is generally accepted as the movement to empower patients to be more involved in their own care and its associated clinical decision making. While accurate, I believe it should be expanded to include the shift of a provider organization’s sole focus on the physician and move more towards the patient, which in this realm serves as the true customer / consumer.

In the world of business, the current healthcare model is unheard of. The healthcare provider market specifically has shunned a traditional “business model” for too long. It is hard to name another industry where the entire organization is so fiercely focused and built around the product or service provider, even at the expense of the customer relationship.

Most providers don’t even have a classic sales, marketing, or business development function focused on patient acquisition. They serve whatever patients walk in the door, or are referred to them by other providers. While there is some focus around it in the market today, even referral management isn’t a major organizational priority.

Organic growth is often not even considered. Growth most often happens through the acquisition of other providers, individual physicians, or physician practices.

Providers also tend to land on one end of the spectrum or the other; either specialty clinics focused on a specific service line or specialty, or a Walmart approach providing a full line of services to all patients.

This is the multi-net fishing approach; the more nets that you have out, the more fish you will catch, rather than the utilization of a specific bait to lure a specific kind of fish.

For too long, the focus has been on just clinical and operational improvement. Healthcare needs to start additionally focusing on patient acquisition and revenue generation.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe the best source for new patients is still physician and specialty referrals, but physician relationship management should be viewed as a vessel for patient acquisition rather than the goal itself.

Shouldn’t providers identify and focus resources on service lines that are the most profitable and provide the highest standard of care? Acquiring patients that you want to serve based on a variety of factors that may include payer-mix, disease, service line, demographics, etc.

Even if your mission is to serve all patients, even including indigent care, as a great deal of the faith- and religious-based providers do, you should still have a focused patient acquisition strategy in order to better serve your entire patient base. The resulting revenue and profitability increase can be invested back into care delivery and clinical operations, by providing top-tier physicians and technology and additional capacity in order to better serve your entire patient population.

To support these ideas, we need a new emphasis on provider and physician relationship management with a goal of targeted patient acquisition. We will address that in our next post Patient Acquisition Through Physician Relationship Management so stay tuned!