Healthcare News & Insights

Vital lessons hospitals can learn from the newspaper industry

The landscape of healthcare is changing, and hospital leaders must keep up with the times. And there’s a surprising model hospitals can learn from: the newspaper industry.

160235651At first glance, what’s currently happening in the print media may not look like it directly relates to health care. But looking deeper, hospitals face many of the same issues that newspapers did before their steep decline.

And judging by the current state of the newspaper industry, hospitals leaders would be wise to address these problems now.

Key issues

In an article in Forbes, Dave Chase, the CEO of Avado, a patient relationship management company, discusses the parallels between the newspaper and healthcare industries, and what preventive measures hospitals can take to avoid the same fate.

Chase says that newspapers failed to address key issues that signified a drastic change, including:

  • Technology and infrastructure. Although Internet access was becoming commonplace, newspapers did little to change their structure to accommodate the change. Rather, media companies buried their heads in the sand, refusing to alter their business practices until it was too late. And, once they did decide to place a focus on their online presence, they weren’t cost-effective about their expansion, spending millions of dollars.
  • Crushing debt. Bigger media outlets were absorbing smaller ones and consequently taking on massive amounts of debt. Newspaper execs made the assumption that profits would outweigh these financial challenges.
  • Increasing competition. Newspaper companies only worried about competition from other newspapers. They only thought about how they could draw readers and advertisers from their direct competitors – and didn’t consider the challenges brought on by the rise of other indirect competition, including independent news blogs and classified-sales websites, such as Craigslist and eBay.

These problems have many parallels with what issues hospitals are currently facing, such as:

  • Infrastructure. Just as newspapers spent millions of dollars to accomplish things competitors could do for a fraction of that cost, hospitals are contributing to rising healthcare costs with the traditional fee-for-service method of providing patients with care. With many pilot programs demonstrating how quality care can be provided with cost-saving initiatives, such as patient-centered medical homes and partnerships with insurers, hospitals that don’t get on the bandwagon will be left behind.
  • Mergers and expansions. Expansion is the name of the game for most health systems, as bigger hospital systems absorb surrounding smaller ones. If done properly, mergers can make patient care more efficient. On the other hand, uncontrolled expansion can bog down a hospital system, especially if it takes on large amounts of debt.
  • Competing treatment options. Hospitals must address the issue of competition for care delivery. From urgent care centers and clinics to “hospital at home” programs, patients have more options to receive treatment. Instead of ignoring these competitors, working together with them will keep hospitals relevant and improve patient outcomes.

According to Chase, if hospitals can’t properly address these concerns, they may not be around in 10 years. In fact, the only thing patients would need from a hospital is an occasional stay in the ICU. So it’s crucial hospitals adapt to what’s happening.

3 ways to keep up

For a simple strategy hospitals can borrow to keep up in the current healthcare landscape, Chase presents three ideas used by Digital First Media CEO John Paton, who took his struggling media company out of bankruptcy in only two years:

  1. Adapt quickly. Instead of waiting until there’s no other option but to change, implement new strategies and ideas to revolutionize patient care before they’re required.
  2. Keep projects at a manageable scale. Sweeping changes shouldn’t be implemented all at once. Start small and centrally. Then slowly expand as the desired results are achieved.
  3. Work closely with others. Partner with other hospitals, insurers and primary care providers. Seek ideas from them for improvement regarding delivery of care, and make changes cooperatively.

While newspapers are hanging on by a thread, hospitals don’t have to be in the same boat — if they take some preemptive measures now.

 

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