When Opportunity Knocks

News that domestic spending on healthcare grew at the lowest rate in recorded history could be viewed as trouble for HM leaders negotiating new contracts—or it could be the chance for a new generation of hospitalists to prove their worth.

"This is an opportunity for people who can do good clinical integration. … You can have gainsharing and actually still make physicians win financially but still deliver the right care for patients," says Steven Deitelzweig, MD, MMM, SFHM, chair of SHM’s Practice Management Committee and chair of hospital medicine for Ochsner Health System in New Orleans.

According to the report "Recession Contributes To Slowest Annual Rate Of Increase In Health Spending In Five Decades" (doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2010.1032), healthcare spending in 2009 grew just 4%, to $2.5 trillion, the lowest growth rate since the federal government began tracking the data 50 years ago.

The impact of a record slowing in healthcare spending is particularly germane to HM group negotiators, considering they find themselves in talks at a unique time, according to an article in this month’s issue of The Hospitalist. Industry participants say that between stimulus money for quality reforms, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and healthcare reform, hospitals have to do the proverbial more with less.

Dr. Deitelzweig urges hospitalists to promote their quality initiatives and take charge of processes that can save their institutions money. A hospital administration that saves money by eliminating unnecessary procedures and smoothing transitions of care, for example, can argue it deserves a piece of those savings, he says.

"The pie will be shrinking," he adds. "But that doesn’t mean you can’t figure a way to provide the right care in a less expensive way."

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