It might sound a lit­tle fa­mil­iar

Modern Healthcare - - SPECIAL REPORT - —Melanie Evans

The health­care in­dus­try en­ters 2012 faced with fa­mil­iar stres­sors: an un­steady eco­nomic re­cov­ery, high un­em­ploy­ment and the scram­ble to com­ply with a wave of new fed­eral health poli­cies.

But the year prom­ises a few orig­i­nal twists, not the least among them the up­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and the U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion on key pro­vi­sions of the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act.

Hos­pi­tals that have cut ex­penses as the econ­omy slowed could con­tinue to see mea­ger rev­enue growth should the re­cov­ery drag. The sec­tor may also see cuts to Med­i­caid, as states seek to slow health­care spend­ing, and Medi­care, as Congress wran­gles over how to curb the fed­eral deficit. De­vice man­u­fac­tur­ers will feel the squeeze as well, as hos­pi­tals look to curb spend­ing.

Hos­pi­tals fin­ished 2011 with pres­sure from an­other source: ac­tive nurses unions that are un­afraid to take their griev­ances pub­lic. It’s a trend likely to spill over into the months ahead.

Mean­while, sec­tors across the in­dus­try will face new chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties from fed­eral ini­tia­tives to boost in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy use, im­prove qual­ity and ef­fi­ciency, reg­u­late the in­sur­ance mar­ket and fight fraud.

Health in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy adop­tion is ex­pected to ac­cel­er­ate as of­fice-based physi­cians race to take ad­van­tage of fed­eral in­cen­tive pro­grams. The com­ing year also marks the fi­nal months of prepa­ra­tion be­fore the CMS links hos­pi­tal pay to per­for­mance on clin­i­cal and pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion scores.

Health in­sur­ers will seek to com­ply with new over­sight un­der the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act while hos­pi­tals that could see po­ten­tially hefty fines for break­ing the law may find re­lief un­der one pro­vi­sion.

For a more de­tailed look at the in­dus­try’s chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the year ahead, read on.

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