Sometimes growth don't feel like it should
January 28, 2011
You may have heard that Group Health’s Executive Leadership Team recently built the 2011-2015 Strategic Plan. It came together with input from hundreds of people around Group Health Physicians and Group Health Cooperative, and is supported and endorsed by both organizations’ boards. It focuses on four areas:
- Profitable growth with a target of 932,000 insured members by 2015
- Affordability since we have a business reason and an obligation to bring costs down
- Quality with a target to rank among the top 25 NCQA accredited plans by 2015
- Staff engagement because without you, these targets are impossible.
The plan notes “Our patients get the best care when they are cared for by Group Health Physicians in Group Health Medical Centers.” And when this is not possible, it points to achieving the “highest level of ‘integrated care’ by partnering with preferred partners.”
It is a very bold plan, projecting “strategies that drive growth in our group practice in order to provide cost-effective, high-quality care. Our goal is that the majority of all new members will receive their care with Group Health Medical Centers.”
You often hear us “executives” talking about the importance of profitable growth, but it might not always feel like a good thing to you as you do your work every day. Certainly growth itself can mean more work for front line clinicians and clinical teams, and that can be painful. We know that taking on new patients—and engaging them in their own good health—takes time. But it’s what’s unique and important about our kind of medicine.
We can mitigate the pain of growth somewhat by getting ready for it with enough staff and space to welcome new patients. Still, growth can be hard on our front lines. So why is it a good idea? Here are some key business and strategic reasons to pursue profitable growth.
The world is rapidly changing around us. Washington added nearly 1 million new residents over the last decade, becoming the 13th largest state. Without growth, our market share—the portion of the total available health care market that we serve—declines. This decreases Group Health’s standing in the region and undermines our ability to negotiate effectively with hospitals, other providers, and health plans.
More coverage for each other, more time to learn. When we grow we can add more staff and more specialties, increasing our ability to cover for each other and meet sub-specialization needs. Related to this, with growth comes more opportunity for front line staff to take on new roles related to administration, education, or research. It helps development of knowledge, skills, innovation, and personal growth to be living, vibrant qualities in our work.
A volume of patients to attract the best of the best. Market relevance (often confirmed by growth) is in fact what keeps our jobs secure and is a measure of long term success. Growth is even more vital for our Consultative Specialty group. We need the referral base and patient volumes to attract and retain the highest quality specialists and subspecialists.
Fixed costs are spread more broadly. This makes a business model more financially sustainable in the long term. For our health plan and medical group alike, spreading infrastructure costs over a larger number of members means the cost of care per member is more stable over time.
We bring Group Health medicine to more communities. Growing also means spreading our influence to more people, living our founders’ mission to “serve the greatest number.” In doing this we help more people live better, healthier lives and relieve pain and suffering. Group Health has an obligation to be part of the solution. We CAN provide affordable, high quality health care. Being part of “what works” and seeing it thrive and grow is something we can all be proud of.
Our success in profitable growth is also part of leaving the organization in a better position than when we joined it. This is our responsibility to those who will follow us here.
Growth has to be profitable to do good in the long term. In the short term, growth can be painful for front line clinical people, and it means some tough decisions about structuring the business for its best future. But it’s a great dilemma to have.
- | 2011
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