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Big Business: Healthcare's a Gold Mine

 |  By Philip Betbeze  
   January 14, 2011

Here's a news flash. Healthcare can be lucrative. Based on recent stock market action, you'd think most of the money is in raw materials such as oil, minerals, and metals. China, after all, needs them badly, and those companies have been going gangbusters for the past several years, with little pause for the great global economic crisis. But materials is old news, apparently. The new gold is being mined in healthcare.

I know what you're thinking. You might be struggling to keep your head above water with declining reimbursements, and for now, treating the uninsured is as big a problem as ever. Meanwhile, salaries for doctors and other medical talent aren't shrinking, and neither are your other fixed costs.

But if you look closely, Big Investment Money sees huge profit potential in this space. In fact, I doubt if there is any other industry that has this much potential. Why? Put simply, healthcare is behind other industries in rooting out inefficiency and waste. We all know that. But it's significantly behind. Technology could make a greater impact on efficiency in healthcare than any other industry it's tackled in a generation. It's complicated, sure, but the returns could be stratospheric. 

My personal epiphany came when I noticed that Stanley Black & Decker, yes, that's right, the hand- and power-tool company, has decided that it can bring its expertise to healthcare. It's willing to spend big on acquisitions to go after that high return. Why should I be surprised? Microsoft and Google jumped in with both feet a couple of years ago. Who thought healthcare would be a profit center for them? Other nontraditional companies have entered the space in recent years as well, mainly on the consulting side. What does that tell you?

Many people are down on healthcare right now. Costs are astronomical, and patients are having to pay more out of their own pockets for services, leading to revenue problems at hospitals and physician practices. I could go on and on. In fact, finding problems to fix in healthcare is as easy as finding January snow in Minnesota. That's exactly why Big Investment Money sees opportunity.

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.

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