2009 in review: The year of living dangerously

What can a finance publication say about a year like 2009? What, in fact, can we tell you that hasn't robbed you of sleep over the past several months? Little, we suppose, other than that the worst may very well be over.

No one's sure when jobs will come back to most workers, but the crunch does seem to be easing a bit. Banks are toying with loans, and better-financed healthcare organizations are beginning to resume building projects. And this is proving to be the first profitable quarter in several for many a health system.

If this is the beginning of the end of the economic collapse, then it's not a moment to soon. Virtually every healthcare organization was slammed by the economic tsunami that hit the U.S., even those with huge revenues, high prestige and previously strong balance sheets. The bond markets all but collapsed, banks locked their doors and capital projects ground to a halt. Meanwhile, most institutions saw their investments drop dramatically in value.

To survive, many healthcare organizations found themselves cutting to the bone, with hospitals in particular engaging in massive waves of layoffs. The better-funded healthcare organizations continued to improve their ability to report quality data, but many others couldn't afford the IT investment. (Given these delays, we suspect that 2010 will be the year of the quality-tracking investment, but I digress.)

In this issue, we offer a view of some of the landmarks of the last year--the news stories which stood out for you, the reader, as well as our editor. Let's hope that when we stand at this point in December '10, we'll have happier news to report. In the mean time, a sigh of relief is probably called for! - Anne

P.S.: We'll be taking our scheduled winter break next week and will resume publishing again on Jan. 6, 2010. Until then, we'd like to wish you a wonderful holiday season and a safe, happy and Fierce New Year! See you in 2010.