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ACHE Congress: Change and Caution Abundant

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, March 13, 2013

One could be forgiven for mistaking the American College of Healthcare Executives' 2013 Congress on Healthcare Leadership for a 2008 Obama For President campaign stop, as talk of hope and change have dominated conversations and presentations.

More specifically, talk of mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and the development of strategies to manage the health of populations represents the change hoped for by healthcare's top leaders. But hope and change at the ACHE Congress, which runs March 11–14 in Chicago, are tempered by fear and caution.

Just to put a point on the rapidity of the changes facing healthcare, the Cleveland Clinic and for-profit hospital chain Community Health Systems announced a partnership, one of dozens announced since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the majority of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last summer.

Strange times indeed.

In previous years at the ACHE Congress, talk of health insurance exchanges, the Medicaid expansion, and other changes being brought about largely by the PPACA was largely esoteric. This year it is evident that leaders are having to deal in a very real way with a declining revenue environment and a healthcare system that attempts to reward them (and punish them) based on value.

Attendees of the ACHE Congress have been treated to dozens of presentations this week showing that leaders are not only contemplating the changes they'll have to make, but also that they are making serious investments in labor, systems, and facilities to help meet the challenges of the future.

As hospitals and health systems try to plan the shift away from fee-for-service, they're aggressively hiring nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other allied health providers to help extend their physician talent. And they're buying or partnering with organizations like federally qualified health centers, physician practices, skilled nursing facilities, home health, and even health plans.

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