A New Year, What Will It Bring?

Dawn Holcombe, MBA, FACMPE, ACHE
President, DGH Consulting, South Windsor, CT

We have survived yet another bout with the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, the “fiscal cliff” deductions, as well as significant cuts from Medicare, and the year has only started.

It is difficult enough to manage an oncology medical practice today: to balance staffing, physician, supply, patient, billing, contracting, regulatory, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, purchasing, and drug management issues. Since approximately 2002, a new layer of concerns and the need for involvement has surfaced—a need to watch the political winds, to listen to the fiscal debates, to understand healthcare reform. At times, it may become overwhelming.

It also is invigorating. These are the times when good leadership and management skills will rise to the surface, when business acumen and strategic direction become more valuable than gold. Oncology practice managers will know the business of oncology from the inside out. You will be in demand.

We may see large, clinically integrated organizations emerge from the fertile soil of the current accountable care organizations. We do not yet know whether stable and sizable oncology practices will have survived the turmoil of 2013—and maybe even 2014—to be there to connect with these that may span cities, states, or even regions. I like to think that they will.

We do know that 2013 will continue to be a year of negotiating and establishing strong business practices, with an eye toward proving value: to patients, to contractors, to potential business partners, and to referral sources. We also know that strong business leaders of oncology (physicians and administrators) will be in demand and will want to sit at the table as the new future of healthcare is shaped. The key will be to understand not only the oncology business but also to envision how the full continuum of care flows around and through oncology as a disease state, and to help build a new healthcare model that builds from strengths and eliminates weaknesses. I am very optimistic that we can do this—that we have the drive and wits to go into 2013 with excitement and hope. Our patients are counting on us to lead the way, and to continue the fight against cancer, adapting to this new world along the way. Things will never be the same again, but that will be a good move, eventually.

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