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An Agenda for the Board

Edward Prewitt, for HealthLeaders Media, May 13, 2013
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This article appears in the May issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

The trend of mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and affiliations of healthcare organizations continues, creating ever-larger entities and sometimes unlikely bedfellows. How long will it persist? Five to 10 years, say the speakers in this issue's executive Roundtable on "Capital Finance: Industry Consolidation," an in-depth conversation about the remaking of the healthcare industry, starting on page 28. What's really driving the trend? Mainly reduced reimbursements, along with tighter access to capital and fear of being left in an uncompetitive position.

For community hospitals, which remain a sizeable number—74% of the 6,000-plus members of the HealthLeaders Media Council say they are from community hospitals—the consolidation wave poses difficult choices. Their raison d'etre is to provide comprehensive care to the local community, which in turn often responds with substantial financial support and is the source of passionately dedicated board members.

These board members understandably resist loss of services and of control of the local hospital. Yet they risk waiting too long to make necessary moves, such as making serious cost cuts and exploring partnerships, before they are forced into bad decisions. Boards should lead these strategic conversations, but community-oriented boards too often have to be dragged along.

Our cover story shows how boards can be brought up to speed. Senior Leadership Editor Philip Betbeze, who conducted the Roundtable and wrote the cover story, details the urgent need for good governance practices. Boards must have a range of expertise, a workable number of members, time to dig into issues, and more commitment than ever. Boards should be pushing CEOs to prepare for the future, not the other way around.

Board members of community hospitals, in particular, may be faced with a loss of local control. But with as many as one-fifth of hospitals facing changes in ownership in the coming years, it's far better to be driving change than to be driven into bankruptcy. Read the cover story, starting on page 10, to learn what boards must do to be better.

Each issue of HealthLeaders addresses the challenges facing C-level executives in healthcare. This issue includes an exploration of emergency department efficiencies, both in the Service Lines section and the Intelligence Report section, which includes highlights from our monthly proprietary research report.

The HLMLive section draws on a live event taking place at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wis., on June 4. For more information on our publications and products, please visit www.healthleadersmedia.com.


This article appears in the May issue of HealthLeaders magazine.


Edward Prewitt is the Editorial Director of HealthLeaders Media.
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