High Stakes

12 Days of 2018 Healthcare Reads

Healthcare is full of incredible stories. And despite uncertainty in our industry and theirs, journalists are telling them.

Big, multi-year trends continued – hospitals bought and sold each other, tech companies circled the waters, doctors faced new and more burdensome demands on their time. But people – real human beings navigating a broken system – still formed the core of the best stories told this year.

The following list of 12 articles is far from comprehensive, but these pieces informed our thinking, as a firm, about healthcare in 2018. Each is worth a read.

A Revolution in Health Care Is Coming.

The Economist, February 1

Consumerism continued to be a major topic in 2018. This piece, from the Economist, frames the issue using the phrase “Doctor You.” It’s a nice overview of the most likely ways big data could impact healthcare consumers in the near-term. An added bonus: the perspective on American healthcare from a publication headquartered across the pond.

#MeToo in Medicine: Women, Harassed in Hospitals and Operating Rooms, Await Reckoning. By Elizabeth Chuck.

NBCNews, February 20

No institution was spared the impact and aftershock of the #MeToo movement. Healthcare organizations, too, were dragged into the sunlight. The most forward-thinking started seriously examining internal power structures that allow for abusive behavior. But as the year ends, it’s clear systemic problems will exist for the foreseeable future.

What the Hospitals of the Future Look Like. By Laura Landro.

Wall Street Journal, February 25

For this piece, Laura Landro talks to major providers about how hospitals will look a few years down the road. The answer: not like hospitals. Her story touches on familiar buzzwords and trends– micro-hospitals, food pharmacies, an increase in ambulatory care – while providing a smart, high-level view of change.

It’s Time We Address the Elephant in the Room at Every Health Care Conference. By Christina Farr.

CNBC, March 10

Christina Farr hustles hard. In 2018, she covered, scoop by scoop, the tech industry’s infiltration of healthcare. But in March, she paused on the conference circuit to shed light on the fact that healthcare is yet unsaved by entrepreneurs. Farr forces a moment self-awareness about innovation – a word perhaps used to the point of uselessness, and the obstacles that still block true change.

Trying to Put a Value on the Doctor-Patient Relationship. By Kim Tingley.

New York Times Magazine, May 16

If you read one piece from 2018, read Kim Tingle’s excellent longform story about the role of the doctor-patient relationship. In it, she uses intensely intimate situations – her own father’s relationship with his primary care provider, a doctor’s conversation with a patient – to tell a larger story about the people within a shifting industry. She does not editorialize, merely shows, in this example of compelling storytelling.

Curiosity and What Equality Really Means. By Atul Gawande.

The New Yorker, June 2

Atul Gawande authored several excellent pieces this year, during which he was hired to run the joint venture between J.P. Morgan, Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon. This transcript of a speech he delivered to the UCLA graduating medical school class is particularly moving. In it, he explains the importance of finding a patient’s humanity – and how now, more than ever, we must relearn the lost art of listening.

Support Circle: Family Caregivers Share Stories and Tips to Ease Alzheimer’s Toll. By Blake Farmer.

NPR, July 11

Increasingly, healthcare stories are showcasing the importance of an underrecognized group: the caregiver. This piece by Nashville reporter Blake Farmer dives into the toll that caring for an Alzheimer’s patient can take on their families, and how they can find solace, and real strategies, from one another.

Private Equity is Piling into Health Care.

The Economist, July 26

This year, private equity money continued to pour into healthcare. The story explains how the industry has been remarkably resilient during economic downturns, which appeals to investors. Also appealing, perhaps counter-intuitively, is the lack of innovation, meaning there’s a lot of potential value to unlock. Experts don’t see investor interest slowing down soon. As the author says, “[As] long as human bodies fail, they will need fixing.”

As Healthcare Changes, Systems Need to Broaden Search to Find Disruptive CEOs. By Harris Meyer.

Modern Healthcare, August 11

It’s a trope in management writing that change starts at the top. So Modern Healthcare reporter Harris Meyer took stock of the people leading healthcare systems and asked whether they have the skillset necessary to drive great change. One factor, he points out, is vision – a quality that is requiring some systems to broaden their CEO searches to find.

Surprise Medical Bills Are What Americans Fear Most in Paying for Health Care. By Jordan Rau. Kaiser Health News, September 5

The cost of healthcare continues to stress out the country. Most Americans – 67 percent, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll – are worried about unexpected medical bills. Moreover, 40 percent of people surveyed had received one. And, while payers and providers may point fingers at one another, patients blame everyone, including drug companies, for unbearable prices.

When Hospitals Merge to Save Money, Patients Often Pay More. By Reed Abelson.

New York Times, November 14

Hospitals and health systems have been on a consolidation tear – a trend that has received extensive media and analyst coverage. But despite the fact that leaders at systems cite cost savings in the case for mergers and acquisitions, Reed Abelson’s story argues that these deals often lead to higher prices for consumers. Now, it takes years for the benefits of M&A to bear out, but healthcare leaders should be prepared to argue them to an increasingly skeptical audience.

Hotel-Style Hospitality Comes to Hospitals. By Melanie Grayce West.

Wall Street Journal, December 16

Most hospitals are notoriously unhospitable. But more and more, patients expect a pleasant experience along with excellent care. Some hospital leaders have taken this to heart and, as this story explains, have hired customer experience experts to help introduce concepts such as emotional intelligence among staff and consumer-centric wayfinding. The progress is impressive, and yet, as trained hospitality professionals are finding when they enter the world of healthcare, there is a long way to go.


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