The news that Apple plans to set up health clinics for its employees produced barely a ripple on the impending sea of change.  No big deal, right? Certainly no threat to your career.

The initial collective shrug of shoulders seemed to be based on the idea that with only 84,000 US employees this was hardly a drop in the bucket for a healthcare system that has 300 million patients, writes Sheila Talton for MedPage Today.  Apple alone is not going to propel change but it could be the first tumbling rock that starts a landslide of transformation, posits Ms. Talton who is President and CEO of Gray Matter Analytics. She sits on the boards of Deere & Company, Wintrust Financial Corporation and Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Pushback on Transformation

Transformation.  Whenever I write about transformation in healthcare I inevitably get pushback from people who claim they are tired of hearing about the impending sea-change that they argue has yet to materialize.  It is as if they are taking the same stance assumed by Community Health Systems’ CEO who, when asked about the coming change to the healthcare reimbursement model in 2013, said he saw no reason to prematurely adjust.  There would be time to adapt. Business was good, his share price was at $60.  Five years later, on Friday before Memorial Day, the CHS share price closed at $4.38.  Not only did the CHS leadership team seem to feel they were immune to any serious impact from the pace of change, they actually doubled down and bought the Naples, Florida-based Health Management Associates.  The CHS CEO believed that the HMA’s collection of 71 mostly mediocre hospitals could be turned around and would fit nicely with their own business model which was largely tied to inpatient admissions.  

Then things changed much faster than CHS imagined and they lost the bet in rather spectacular fashion.  Well, actually, the shareholders lost that gamble.  To be sure, there were analysts and investors who agitated for CHS to make the HMA investment to bolster declines in top-line revenue, but that is another story about the peril of listening to healthcare analysts whose industry expertise is a mile wide and two inches deep.

Two Takeaways

That brings me to two important takeaways from Ms. Talton’s essay:

  1. “In an industry dominated by the same players,” Ms. Talton writes, “things are already changing at a faster pace. Companies that can’t keep up get left behind faster.”  
  2. Ms. Talton’s article offers a cautionary note for executives as well, I believe.  Just because things are going well today with raises, bonuses and a sense of security in your current job, that could, and probably will, change sooner than you expect.  Now is not the time for career complacency. Pay attention to the trends and challenge yourself to identify new knowledge and skills that will be necessary to sustain your career trajectory.  

When facing change, it is important to have a broad prospective.  This is not a healthcare-only reality.  “This is a lesson that’s been learned time and again in the private sector but at an accelerating pace, whether with Blockbuster, Compaq, KODAK or Sears.  Complacency is often the last stop on the path to irrelevance,” Ms. Talton believes. 

Executives who cannot keep up will be left behind faster.