Healthcare in '07: A year of living dangerously

In most industries, executives live with the fear that their entire business model could be stood on its head--that they could be the ones ending up making the buggy whips when horse-drawn carriages cease to exist.  Healthcare execs are spared that misery, at least. People will always get sick, and those who care for the sick will always have a job.

However, during 2007, healthcare business models and practices have been under more strain than they have been in years--heck, in maybe even in decades. Consider the following:

* The push for price and quality data transparency
* Growing acceptance of retail clinics
* Broader use of pay-for-performance programs
* A shift away from payment for medical errors
* Proliferation of physician ratings by consumers and health insurers
* Tremendous pressure to adopt electronic medical records
* Controversy over the future of regional health information organizations

This list is downright dizzying. We're talking major shifts in reimbursement, care delivery, administration, marketing, quality measurement, revenue cycle management, patient relationships and more, all in the span of 12 months. Yes, some of these (such as pay for performance) aren't brand new, but I'd argue that all developed new momentum this year.

Why did all of this happen? The Democratic takeover of Congress, and the impending presidential election, are certainly playing a big role. Add that to a widespread belief that transparency and consumer controls can solve many healthcare industry issues, and you have a potent blend.

In this issue, I'll dig a bit deeper into five of these trends (see below) and provide a quick look at how they developed over the year. After this issue, FierceHealthcare will go on a publishing break, and will return on January 2nd. When we return, meanwhile, I'll have a look at hot trends for 2008. Have a nice break, folks, and we'll see you next year! - Anne