Business & Leadership Behaviors Technical & Industry Thoughts

Is Healthcare a Service or a Business?

This is just one of the many questions that surround the topic of Healthcare. It doesn’t seem like a day goes by where Healthcare isn’t discussed. A right, an entitlement, private options, public options, government run, privately run….the list goes on.

But getting back to the question of whether it’s a Service or a Business – my answer is that it’s both.

First and foremost, healthcare is about service and providing resources to those in need of care. With that in mind, it is most definitely a business in that to exist and operate it takes financial resources and management.

So, is Healthcare a Service or a Business? It’s both. But is one aspect more important than the other?

To me, it’s pretty obvious that the service to those in need is the most important. The entire reason the Healthcare industry exists is to provide a set of unique capabilities that are beneficial for people.

But like any other business enterprise, it takes preparation (research and training folks), implementation (hospitals/clinics, equipment and transportation) and sustainment (operation costs and ongoing investments) for the organization to exist and to have a perpetual life. So without the Business side – the Service side won’t make it.

One of the examples that comes to mind on how the Business side impacts the Service side is the use of a vehicle. You’ve probably gone over these factors at home if you have (or have had) a kid nearing driving age – “requesting” (begging) for their own car to meet their transportation needs.

Service Side: Transportation My daughter wanted a means to get to school, to work, to practice, to the store for her mom (of course), etc. There are a variety of service options available to deliver this service: car, bus, commuter train, rideshare, etc.

Business Side: Preparation We conducted a review (research) into her life, her (my) finances and what options might work for her in terms of transportation. After some back and forth and a digression on the benefits of her bicycle, “we” determined that owning her own car is optimal for her needs. Then, based on her (my) finances, my (her) preferences, etc., I determined the level of investment “we” can make (shiny new Cadillac Escalade vs. 1996 Ford Fiesta).

Business Side: Implementation “We” buy a car and my daughter now has transportation.

Business Side: Sustainment Cars need things to keep moving. If she doesn’t provide fuel (gas, diesel or electric) her vehicle becomes a “yard ornament” (or maybe driveway/garage ornament) and not transportation. It can also achieve ornament status even if she does provide fuel – but not regular maintenance. This took a little while to sink in.

Surprisingly enough, many people forget about the importance of the Business Side of Healthcare. The critical Service Side can’t exist – or be its most effective – if the Business Side isn’t managed.

For me, my thinking naturally goes in that direction. HL Group’s background is assisting organizations with the business side of their operations. Fixed Asset Management is an area that I’ve come to know very well through our assetsPLUS solution offerings. I think it provides a window into an often overlooked area that can have a strong business impact for any organization – including Healthcare.

Take a hospital, for example. There are a lot of moving parts that work together to ensure optimal care of the patient. Outside of the staff, the facilities, the location – anyone who has ever seen a medical drama on TV knows that there’s a lot of “stuff” (picture any ER scene alone): gurneys, wheelchairs, trays of sharp tools, etc. And the cost of all of that “stuff” can be quite high.

So, then by extension, optimizing the investment of all of that stuff can make a solid financial impact too. For example:

  • Many teams purchase surplus tools and materials to ensure that they have everything that they need when they need it. This is especially important in environments where critical care decisions are being made. Having visibility to assets/ their location/etc. can minimize the need for and investment in surplus.
  • If you know what you have and where you have it, you’ll have a better idea of what condition it is in. Getting the maximum use of previous asset investments can strategically assist with new acquisition decisions.
  • If it is easy to harvest and package the data into a usable form – then the data is much more likely to get captured and will also have less impact on the staff and their primary job.

The role that our assetsPLUS asset management solution provides is addressing just a small slice of the operational and financial challenges such as these.

Healthcare is a business, but its entire existence (here comes my capitalist belief) is providing a capability and need that improves people’s lives. I pray that our politicians and the healthcare community can figure out the best approach. But we at HL Group will continue with our contribution – which is providing tools for organizations to improve operations and financial management.