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Hospital Consolidation

There are a number of trends happening in healthcare right now that are hard to ignore. Plus, they are going to absolutely change the dynamics of healthcare as we know it. I think one of the biggest trends we’re seeing is the healthcare consolidation.

Healthcare consolidation is happening as hospitals come together and as hospitals buy up physician practices. I’ve heard some people argue that soon we’ll only have about 15 companies that own all the hospitals in the US. That seems pretty aggressive, but I think consolidation will likely amount to that many major ones with some minor ones in areas where the major corporations don’t really care.

In a lot of ways, consolidation of hospitals can be a great thing. Consolidation can often mean a lot of cost savings for the hospitals since you can merge departments and gain savings. Plus, your buying power is larger and so you can get the same goods at a lower cost. As we continue to move towards the ACO world consolidation can be a good thing as well since you need everyone involved to make an ACO a success. What better way to get them involved than to have them all in one company?

Also, if all the hospitals are under one company, then it makes for easy exchange of healthcare data between hospitals. Oh wait, for some reason healthcare still hasn’t figured this one out (Yep, we can’t even share healthcare data within a private HIE very well). Maybe this will change.

While there can be many benefits to hospital consolidation, there can also be a number of huge challenges. What if a doctor works for a hospital and they hate the EHR (or insert other reason as you see fit) that the hospital uses? If the hospital system owns all the hospitals in that area, then the doctor doesn’t have much choice. Same goes for a patient who wishes the hospital provided more advanced services. They’ll try to go to the hospital across town and find that it’s the same company and the same processes.

At that point, what incentive does the hospital system have to really truly improve? Sounds like a monopoly waiting to happen to me.

I asked someone how we stop the hospital consolidation. He said, “We don’t.” It’s a fast moving shift that can’t really be stopped. So, we just need to learn to adapt to the new environment.

It will be interesting to see how the EHR world plays out with hospital consolidation. Is a hospital system going to force a certain EHR on their acquired hospitals so they have one EHR to serve all? I bet the answer is they’re likely going to have a number of EHR software in every hospital system. This is going to require a change in mentality for many.

January 10, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

iOS App For Hospitals Snares $20M In VC Funding

As we’ve reported previously, nurses are as fond of mobile technology as doctors, with large numbers bringing their own devices in for day-to-day communication at work. Maybe that’s why a new app — dubbed “Yammer for hospital staffers” by GigaOm — is getting so much money and attention.

The app, PatientTouch for the iPod Touch, has already been rolled out to 65 hospitals across the country, GigaOm reports. And today, maker PatientSafe announced that it had received $20M in funding for Merck. That brings its total amount raised to an eye-popping $50 million. That’s gotta be some kind of record for health apps, even in the red-hot clinical communication app space.

As GigaOm describes it, PatientTouch’s core functions allow nurses to collect basic  It’s also offering souped-up communications. Not only does it offer Yammer-like person to person chat, that chat also can be integrated directly into EMRs. (The story doesn’t say exactly how this wonderfulness happens, or whether, say, it works with a leader like Epic or Cerner or Meditech.)

But that’s not all. PatientTouch also comes with a “jacket” for the Touch which protects it from unsanitary conditions and fluids, preserves battery life, and more intriguingly, includes a bar-code scanner.

The understandably proud CEO of PatientSafety, Joe Condurso, told GigaOm that on any given day, 7,000 PatientSafe-equipped Touches are in use.

I can see why the VCs and Merck are so excited by PatientTouch. It’s based on a very cheap yet powerful platform, offers (what I’ll assume is) secure communication between providers without the BYOD mess and integrates with EMRs, yet. What’s not to like?

All that being said, I can’t see a solution like this one as more than a bridge. Sure, it’s great that it’s helping nurses communicate via a better channel than random BYOD-driven text and e-mail until EMR makers create their own mobile front ends. But personally, I hope the need for a transitional solution like this doesn’t last long.  It’s long overdue for the big EMR vendors to create robust mobile front ends of their own that integrate directly into their platform. Enough foot dragging, already!

I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies.