Consolidation and Segmentation in Hospital Group Purchasing
AmHS/Premier is shaking up the hospital alliance scene. But at least one national alliance, VHA, is betting that the future will head not toward larger monoliths, but toward a more precise customer segmentation.
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After years of criticizing medical technology advances as a cause of rising healthcare costs, many health policy experts and economists are coming around to the view that technology can reduce costs. But such a positive view of technology is worthless if hospitals won't pay a reasonable price for products. A recent New York Times article blasted hospital group purchasing for blocking access to new technology. But it was wrong--the real danger is that group purchasing is destroying hospitals' access to products that already exist.
Tyco International is creating a colossus in hospital supply. But as customers in this consolidated, nationalized market become more demanding--asking for brand name products at ever lower prices--has the strategy run its ground. The demise of American Hospital Supply and new, more high tech focuses of companies like Johnson & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories suggests that hospital suppliers to survive must concentrate on higher margin businesses immune to the pressures of national contracting.
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