Connecting the Dots from ASHE 2013

Posted on August 7, 2013

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Ten days ago I attended ASHE’s Annual Conference and Technical Exhibit in Atlanta. As a PDC Summit regular but ASHE rookie, I didn’t know what to expect.

Whether it was the time of year, my eyes-wide-open view, repetition of information, or simply three years plus into the percolation of healthcare reform, I was surprised at how clearly everything seemed to coalesce—at least for me.

Some major themes:

  1. Sustainability.  The industry continues to be wary of green for green’s sake.  LEED for Healthcare exists, but it is not a bandwagon of wide adoption.  It continues to get more challenging to participate, as it should, but it will be a small subset of passionate CEOs that will insist on LEED.  Hospitals want the benefits without the bureaucracy.
  2. Larger Hospital Systems.  Big simply has too many benefits in healthcare compared to Small.  Unless anti-trust legislation says otherwise, the big get bigger to survive; the small work harder to survive, become part of the big, or close.  Mergers and acquisitions everywhere.
  3. Big Gains in Efficiency, Small Gains Anywhere Else.  Large systems are working on standardizing all that can be standardized in operations, reaping savings in the 20-60% range through Lean and simulation efforts.  Now they are focusing on scalable improvements that can net 3-10%, targeting energy and others.  Budgets continue to shrink, forcing a perpetual do-more-with-less edict.
  4. Architects Transition to Project Partners.  As the commoditization of services continues, architects-as-order-takers are a dying breed.  Healthcare systems need innovative architects.  Architects (and builders) without an understanding of healthcare’s business, unaware how their services impact their clients’ essential goals, who are still contemplating BIM…are approaching irrelevance.
  5. Wellness is a Tidal Force.  PPACA has issued mandates to hospitals to improve community health and architects must refresh their planning skills to help prevent (chronic and avoidable) illness.  Architects must get up to speed on how design can positively affect communities (macro) and hospitals (micro) from a wellness perspective.  Dr. Richard Jackson.  If you don’t know the name, research him.  Read his books.  Know him.  He will be a part of this future.
  6. Healthcare Business Model Disruption.  If I had a dollar for the number of times Walmart was mentioned at ASHE…but some of us saw that coming. And there are others out there who can learn to play the urgent care game very well, and quickly.  Hospitals are fighting others to stay ahead, and someone from outside healthcare, like Walmart, can still blindside everyone because they are such an unknown with considerable resources.

As a companion at ASHE said to me, there is tremendous opportunity in healthcare right now.  Those with a glass half-full view are working like crazy to improve and figure out how to stay relevant through innovation.  Those that see a glass half-empty are fighting progress and probably in trouble.

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