Healthcare reform: Deal with it, thrive in it

Edition: April 2014 - Vol 22 Number 04
Article#: 4459
Author: Gina Marchese

There has been a paradigm shift in the U.S. healthcare system. I’m OK with that. It’s not as though the system was perfect. Let’s face reality: Our healthcare system needed to change.

Like all other major social changes in our country – e.g., Social Security, Medicare, the Internet – there is a lot of hype, a lot of angst, a lot of doomsayers, and a lot of people who will try to put the genie back in the bottle. But as history has repeatedly proven, we will all survive. Some will flourish and some won’t.

The sky is not falling, yet there are many “Chicken Littles” running around panicking, acting like it is.

We need to stop reacting to “healthcare reform” as if it is an initiative for purposefully driving our businesses into the ground. Healthcare reform is not about reducing the cost of products; it’s about delivering better healthcare to more people and doing it by using healthcare dollars more effectively and efficiently.

As an industry, we – the leaders in manufacturing and distribution – cannot allow providers or GPOs to continually point in our direction when asked where the money is being wasted. It is just not true. Competitiveness and the need for sales growth continues to drive product innovation, which in turn improves patient care and reduces costs. Distribution services provide efficiencies, which streamline the supply chain and assure that product is where it is needed.

Our new reality

Where we are today is not where healthcare will be a year from now, nor will it bear much resemblance to the operating model five years from now. Nonetheless, fundamental changes will not be reversed. Once a society has been given something, it will not allow politicians to take it away. In the case of healthcare reform:

• Preexisting conditions will not preclude insurance coverage.

• Insurance tied to a specific employer will no longer be the norm. People will have more options to obtaining healthcare.

• Technology will: 1) track outcomes/drive accountability; 2) attach an electronic medical record to everyone; 3) change the patient/consumer’s knowledge of, and involvement in, treatment strategies; and 4) redefine privacy/confidentiality.

What’s not going to change is the need for healthcare, and the professionals and products that deliver it.

We as industry leaders need to remember and remind others of three fundamental truths:

1. We’ve done this before. Years ago, people panicked over Medicare. When first introduced, everyone thought revenue was going to be lost. Not true. Because as an industry, we responded, and we took costs out of the system. We adapted our business models to incorporate different parameters.

2. Our industry is filled with very smart people. Real leaders are the visionaries. They’re not blinded by the “good ole days.” They’re focused on creating sustainable business models. They’re looking for solutions. They are open to non-traditional approaches, including recruiting talent from outside the industry, and are forcing a reevaluation of the entire system.

3. It’s in our best-interest to embrace the new reality. Businesses in and around healthcare need to be profitable. We don’t have the luxury of bemoaning the past. Our business is about creating and providing products and services that save people’s lives. It’s up to us to figure out how to work within our new world.

As we have done in the past, we must rely on those who have the vision to see the opportunity that lies ahead for our industry to lead us through this iconic change in our social system. These visionaries exist. They are here. I want to be one of them.

Gina Marchese is a senior vice president and a partner at MMS - A Medical Supply Company. She has more than 15 years of experience in healthcare distribution services and is a member of the Board of Directors for HIDA, the Healthcare Industry Distributors Association.