During the climactic final chess game in the 1993 drama “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” young Josh Waitzkin (played with tremendous subtlety by Max Pomeranc) brings his queen out early in the game, much to the chagrin of his classically oriented coach. A few moves later, his opponent unwittingly makes a mistake.
“Look deep, Josh, it’s there. It’s 12 moves away,” Ben Kingsley’s character, coach Bruce Pandolfini, says. Then, as Kingsley orates the moves that will unfold, Josh’s eyes dart across the board; you can see the gears turning in his mind. One by one, the pieces will fall and the game will be won.
I was reminded of that scene last month while attending the 16th Non-Profit Health Care Investor Conference in New York City — a gathering of more than 700 health system and Wall Street officials. With a theme of consumerism and population health as the backdrop, executives from each of the presenting hospitals detailed how they are repositioning their bishops, rooks, pawns and queens. Most of them are seeing the entire chessboard and trying to anticipate what will happen rather than sitting back and playing defense.
Children’s Health System of Texas, for instance, has a vision to “touch 2 million lives” by addressing consumer needs, diversifying and building scale. As Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Michele Chulick laid out the strategy, I could see the pieces falling into place, one by one, just like they did for young Josh.
Understanding that consumerism is a driving force behind the growth in retail clinics and more convenient access points, Children’s is advancing medical homes, expanding primary care centers, and considering affiliations with urgent care and retail vendors.
Through health information exchange, tele-NICU expansion, tele-ED and school-based health initiatives, Children’s is eyeing innovative ways to expand its reach as well. Investments in information technology could yield $13.7 billion in revenue in 2018, up from $100 million in 2013, Chulick said.
And as narrow networks start to take hold, Children’s will move toward more affiliations, partnerships and joint ventures.
It’s all premised on the need to make things easier — and better — for the consumer, Chulick said. That is a sound strategy.
“Consumer choice is playing an increasingly important role in influencing where patients receive their health care, particularly for low-acuity and less-complex services," Moody’s Investors Service stated in a June 11 report. "Not-for-profit hospitals that excel at providing convenient care, high-quality consumer service, and demonstrated value will gain patient loyalty, improve market share and boost credit strength."
The ratings agency noted that well-performing hospitals are wisely diversifying as they see a shift in revenue streams. In 2011, inpatient services made up 53.6 percent of net patient revenue, while the outpatient share was 46.4 percent. That ratio nearly leveled out in 2014 with outpatient services accounting for 49.2 percent of revenue and inpatient services 49.7 percent.
So, if you haven’t brought your queen out yet, what are you waiting for? — You can reach me at email@example.com.