Are we seeing light at the end of the financial tunnel?

While the devastating effects of the recession and financial markets collapse still echo throughout the healthcare industry, there are signs that we could be seeing the beginning of the end, such as the following:

* While much of the economy is still squeezed hard, with the unemployment rate still hovering at a historic 9.8  percent last month, healthcare providers created 19,000 jobs in September.

* Here and there, bond financing deals are returning and healthcare construction efforts are getting back underway, such as the $1 billion, bond-backed effort under way at the Ohio State University Medical Center. OSU is doing a pre-recession style facelift to its main campus, which includes two new buildings.

* Money flowing into health IT through ARRA is helping hospitals get back on track with long-delayed tech infrastructure projects, including, of course, the EMR race.

* A variety of sources suggest that consumer confidence has rebounded somewhat, which should mean that elective surgeries and physician visits will begin to return to something closer to their usual volume.

Of course, as we've discussed ad nauseum in these pages, it still remains to be seen whether health reform will deliver the funding to push the industry back into something like real prosperity. Even without pending reforms, though, the signs above are promising.

Now, the question is how to capitalize on these conditions, and readers, it's your turn. Do you see an improving economy in your region, and if so, how are you capitalizing on it? - Anne

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