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Healthcare industry not changing with the times

By Bobby Tingle

 

Since 1979 the newspaper industry has evolved. No one sent a press release announcing the changes, however the transformation occurred slowly but surely.

It was not a deliberate evolution on the part of newspaper executives. Market forces working beyond the influence of the news industry had control of this progression.

Newspapers have either adapted or gone away. For the most part, adaptation has been the norm.

Newspapers measure readership now by measuring their audience. In 1979, printed news on paper with ink, sometimes in color, was the only offering. Today print media have a significant online presence including websites and social media. The combination of traditional paper and ink readers along with online and social media readers is our audience.

Content has changed as well.

Our focus, at The Orange Leader, has become what many in the industry label hyper-local. We cover local events. We will publish your community event schedule in our community calendar. If you send us a press release it will show up in print and online. We publish sports news focused primarily on local high schools. Law enforcement offices provide a record of their calls that we publish. We provide a forum for local business to engage with their potential customers. We have many local columnists who provide local opinions and cartoons.

We have not always been hyper-local. I have heard complaints about our lack of coverage of national events. We no longer subscribe to the services that provide national and international news, but we are all about our backyard.

I can chronicle the changes in the newspaper industry since 1979 because I have lived and worked through it. Much of the change, I have fought tooth and nail.

I wonder if the health care industry has changed since 1979? Sounds like one of those questions that exceed the boundaries of; there are no dumb questions. Of course, the health care industry has changed.

But, did Baptist Hospital in Orange change with the industry? One business executive in Orange County believes the reason they failed is they did not listen to their customers. Their customers are more than just patients. Their customers are doctors who provide the service they intend to offer and the insurance industry providing the revenue stream necessary for continued operation.

Baptist Hospital cited nine items that contributed to their decision to ‘restructure’ their service offering which resulted in termination of Emergency Services.

Those nine items can be categorized into one of three things: Competition, evolution of the industry and evolution of revenue sources.

Baptist lost competitively in three ways.

The Physicians group providing emergency room service decided to offer its services elsewhere, patients chose to be treated elsewhere and freestanding emergency rooms began operating in the area.

Somewhat related has been the migration of patients from receiving care at inpatient settings to outpatient facilities. Finally, revenue sources have evolved resulting in years of financial loss. Specifically, Medicare and Medicaid rates have declined, the State of Texas declined to expand Medicaid, and Baptist failed to qualify for designations tied to higher funding levels from funding agencies.

Baptist Hospital has failed in Orange County because it did not respond.

These changes did not happen overnight. None of the nine things listed as contributing factors came as a surprise to Baptist Hospital in Orange. Management simply refused to adapt.

Asking why seems appropriate. Getting the answers to why will make the moving forward path easier to discern.

In the past few years, I have been exposed to ‘wisdom’ documents the owners of this newspaper operate under. These documents express the foundations upon which a newspaper can succeed, in an era of evolution and competition. That wisdom was first recorded in the forties and fifties, but the principles remain valid today.

The health care industry is no different.

Orange County, according to one industry leader, would be wise to seek the wisdom of those in the health care industry. My suspicion is, he is right. The answers and framework and foundation for successful operation of a hospital in Orange County are available from knowledgeable local citizens.

Lets seek them out and partake of their wisdom.

 

Bobby Tingle is Publisher of The Orange Leader. You can reach him at bobby.tingle@orangeleader.com.