The incoming tide

The incoming tide

The paradigm shift of the economy is coming at us like the incoming tide – a force to be reckoned with soon. This incoming tide will demand changes to the healthcare industry. This new tide will force us to take action. We must adjust to embrace this incoming tide. No other economic phenomenon has been this strong in recent history, other than the Great Depression in the 1930s. The unrelenting economic tide is global. From a national perspective, the economy is affecting every aspect of our lives. Up until now, every industry has been hit by the economy; now the healthcare industry is facing the incoming tide.

In a current New Yorker article titled “Big Med,” Atul Gawande, a surgeon by training, so artfully writes about this incoming tide. Atul states in his timely article that “restaurant chains have managed to combine quality control, cost control, and innovation” – and he asks, “Can Healthcare?” The conclusion, according to Gawande, is that if healthcare is unable to adjust to the economies of today by becoming a system, it will fail to survive the force of this incoming tide. 

Most American hospitals have been community-based for generations – the predominant community institution in the 20th century. Due in part to the economic picture of the 21st century, hospitals and physicians must set a new course. In the New Yorker article, Gawande informs the reader that the majority of hospitals and physicians are becoming parts of systems, and systems are becoming chains.

Healthcare reform, driven mostly by the public mandate to address the economy, will reshape healthcare delivery. The days of the community-based hospitals are now numbered. Community hospitals and physicians must reduce cost, improve quality and enhance the patient- and family-centered experience. Healthcare systems and chains will make healthcare more effective and efficient to face the incoming tide.

Our hospital is no different than other hospitals across our land as the economy comes to our shores like the incoming tide. As a community provider of healthcare services, we must address the economy. We must come together as a team. Our leadership, our medical staff, and our employees must work together to formalize a new plan. This new plan needs to address short-term and long-term resolutions. We must reduce cost and find ways to improve quality and satisfaction scores in the short term. In the long term, we must formalize the best option for Onslow Memorial Hospital and our dedicated community-based medical staff to withstand the incoming tide. We must realize that we cannot stop this incoming tide. We must act and act soon while there is still time along our shore. This moment in our history reminds me of a poem in “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman:

 

“From Montauk Point”

I stand as on some mighty eagle’s beak,

Eastward the sea absorbing, viewing,

(nothing but sea and sky,)

The tossing waves, the foam,

the ships in the distance,

The wild unrest, the snowy, curling caps –

that inbound urge and urge of waves,

Seeking the shores forever.

 

Sincerely,

Ed Piper, Ph.D.

Former President & Chief Executive Officer, 2000-2016

 

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