Warding Off Decline, Hospitals Invest in Outpatient Clinics

Giant U.S. hospital operators, including Tenet Healthcare Corp., Dignity Health and HCA Healthcare Inc., are investing heavily in surgery centers, emergency rooms and urgent care clinics located outside hospitals, chasing after patients who increasingly want cheaper and more convenient care.

Insurers and employers that pay for health care are helping drive the change as they shift more Americans to high-deductible insurance plans, which require patients to pay more of their medical bills before insurance kicks in. That has pushed more patients to seek lower-cost options, says RBC Capital Markets managing director Frank Morgan, a hospital analyst.

Hospital demand slumped during the last recession, a trend that has continued even as the economy recovers, American Hospital Association data through 2014 show. Admissions growth at HCA hospitals has slowed in recent quarters to 1% to 2%, as a boost from the Affordable Care Act faded, while Tenet’s admissions have been flat or down 1% to 3% most quarters since late 2015.

In an effort to strengthen their hold on their markets and prevent rivals from siphoning off patients, hospitals are investing outside their own walls. They are “following the patient,” Mr. Morgan said.

The strategy also places hospital satellites closer to where patients live and work, which executives say they hope will win over new, loyal customers.

In July, Ashley Hammack rushed to a new free-standing ER in Spring Hill, Tenn., after growing weak from vomiting. The facility, a satellite of TriStar Centennial Medical Center, is a 10 minute drive from her home, about 20 minutes closer than the hospital where she delivered her daughter five months before.

Doctors saw her quickly. “I never even sat down,” Ms. Hammack recalled. She was treated for severe dehydration from what doctors suspected was food poisoning and sent home with medication.

Trevor Fetter, Tenet’s outgoing chief executive, says company executives have pursued rapid outpatient expansion partially out of necessity. Slumping admissions contributed to Tenet and HCA lowering their earnings estimates for 2017, which in turn hit stock prices.

By Melanie Evans | Fox Business

Image Credit: The Wall Street Journal


About Peter Coffaro 820 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the orthopedic industry. Recognized by MedReps.com as one of the top medical sales influencers in the industry; he has 10 years of combined sales management experience and has held positions as a Director, General Manager and Distributor. Peter has worked for some of the top orthopedic companies in the world - Zimmer, DePuy and Stryker. He is also the founder of OrthoFeed: a popular blog that covers orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson and has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing and professional education. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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