Dealing with Competition: Nonprofit Medical Centers

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February 3, 2011; Source: Star-Tribune | How do community health centers look at “market share” or competition for patients? It is a complex question some of the aspects of which are illustrated in this story in the Star-Tribune in Wyoming.

As the county commission got ready to vote on a $20 million bond intended to fund an expansion of Wyoming Medical Center, one commissioner raised the issue of possible patient poaching by other local facilities. Bill McDowell, a commissioner and a former member of the health center board said, “Other facilities are soliciting business and taking patients out.”

McDowell suggested having the county commission or local hospital “talk” to the offending parties to persuade them to do less advertising in the area but the executive of the health center did not think such a strategy would be productive. She seems to believe that an attraction strategy based on consolidating primary care physicians work better.

But anyone familiar with the financial lives of health centers knows that the mix of patients can make a big difference to financial health. As we observed two days ago in a newswire about hospice organizations, when some institutions purposely cream the better paying or more remunerative cases, it can leave facilities with a real commitment to the uninsured at a disadvantage because they are less able to achieve a healthy financial mix. There oughta be a law.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Jonathan Streeter

    I don’t really understand that article in the Star-Tribune or the premise it rests on related to competition for patients. Here in Wisconsin, it is very clear that non-profit community health centers are partners in the overall health system, providing primary care services (and dental and pharmacy) to the region’s most vulnerable residents. We work in tandem with our healthcare partners (hospitals, private insurers, local clinics, etc.) so that everyone can have a place to rely on for high-quality routine care. Particularly for people with Medicaid or no insurance at all, community health centers are the only real option available. Rather than “competing” with other providers, we work in tandem with them, to ensure that the largest possible number of people can be accomodated with the care they need.