The Human-Centered Health Blog

The Best Defense


The Best Defense


“The best defense is a good offense” is a traditional saying frequently heard at college football games, but George Washington first coined the phrase.  Projecting the impression of strength was a key principle used by our first President against larger and better-trained foreign enemies. No matter the origin, the notion of going on the offense to push back against threats applies to Health Systems today. 


The challenges are well-documented. Health Systems face cost inputs growing faster than revenue, leading to negative operating margins with no visibility of how this could improve. These financial pressures are stretching executives beyond capacity. As I’ve worked with health system leaders across the country, it’s become apparent that building new, high-margin revenue-producing products must be a top priority for Health Systems in 2023. In short, it’s time to project the impression of strength and play offense.


For a moment, put aside the worries holding you back. Yes, it’s perhaps true that many leaders believe they have few promising revenue growth areas, and our communities are also stretched thin. However, as a thought experiment, let’s put aside these fears for a moment. Health Systems have played defense for so long that many cannot recall what it feels like to go on offense. Put worry aside and consider how to grab revenue streams from competitors. 


Competition with powerful and nimble new entrants is stressing the healthcare market. Payors, pharmacies, and disruptors are circling like wolves. Let’s fight back by playing offense in 2023.


  • Payors are entering directly into care delivery by leveraging network pricing power in their traditional insurance business. They’ve purchased or built provider businesses designed to capture highly-profitable healthcare practices. Turn the tables by assembling your own health plan and playing offense. Your system delivers complex care and holds the trust of the patient population. Cut the insurance company out by offering VIP access and attractive pricing to the largest employers in your region. 
  • Pharmacies are moving to control patient intake and assessment by leveraging their retail locations and consumer brands. While these areas are not highly profitable, they control much of the patient referral volume and, if lost, represent a significant threat. Punch them in the eye by offering prescription medication delivered directly to the patient’s home. This immediately improves medication compliance while driving high-margin revenue into the Health System and away from the pharmacy. 
  • Disruptors are technology companies that have already attacked and driven change in finance, retail, manufacturing, travel, and most other industries. They’re now focused on the multi-trillion dollar healthcare market. Push back by developing patient engagement tools and capitalizing on the existing reimbursement paths. These tech disruptors are not trusted and cannot credibly claim to have the empathy and compassion required to care for your community. Patients trust the Health System and will prefer to deepen their relations and leave their personal health data with you. For this reason, your patient-facing tools have an advantage, but you have to launch them – quickly.


As you can see, there is no shortage of attack vectors available to Health Systems today. Building new, high-margin revenue-producing products must be an important component of your strategy going forward. Playing offense can be more engaging and more fun for your team.  Take action and play some offense in the healthcare market.


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