Change is hard. 

Failing is hard to take.  And for many top executives the pain of failing is the driver that pushes them to change.

So says John Chambers, CISCO’s Chief Executive Officer.  “I’d like to say I like change.  I don’t.  I came out of IBM and Wang Laboratories.  Each company was on top of the world and then fell from grace. 

“Once you have experienced that, and the pain that goes with it, the one thing you are not going to do is not change,” Chambers disclosed in a Bloomberg Businessweek magazine profile.

In healthcare, where healthcare leaders are at the nexus of the nation’s deficit crisis, the next 10 years will be all about change as reimbursements are reduced and CEOs are pushed to dramatically cut costs. 

Once every decade, healthcare leaders experience some variation of this drama—reimbursements are cut and CEOs shed expenses by dumping non-core operations—from internal consultants and physician practice management, to home care and other outreach services, for example.  Historically, within three to four years the pain of the last restructuring and layoffs fades from memory and, over time, business as usual returns—until the cycle begins again.

This time it will be different.  Given the actuarial time bomb that is Medicare, we will not be able to return to business as it has always been.  We are now in a decade of constant change.

Change is hard.  It will be harder—and more painful—for those healthcare organizations and service companies who deny or delay in facing the reality of the new normal in healthcare and fall from grace. 

© 2012 John Gregory Self