'Health system' is out; here's what comes next

Hospitals evolved into health systems over the last several years with multiple care sites and expanded focus on health and wellness. Millions of dollars were spent in rebranding and strategy to become "health systems."

Now, the term is becoming obsolete.

Health systems are so much more than care providers, with ancillary businesses such as retail pharmacy, venture capital investing, telehealth, hospital-at-home, and more. The best new term to describe evolving health systems hasn't been universally defined, but a few organizations have begun internally rebranding.

Stony Brook (N.Y.) Medicine's growth strategy isn't focused on more inpatient services, or even expanding its 240 community-based physician clinics. Instead, the organization is zeroing in on at-home services, urgent and immediate care, and triaging patients appropriately. Stony Brook also includes five growing life sciences schools.

"We've stopped calling ourselves a health system and started calling ourselves a health platform because we've got to have partnerships to make this happen," said Liz Popwell, chief strategy and transformation officer at Stony Brook Medicine, during an April 3 panel at the Becker's 13th Annual Meeting. "We know we're not experts in all spaces, but we need to find the right experts to partner with."

She said patients were willing to travel for care before the pandemic, but now they're looking for more convenient access and extended telemedicine and remote patient monitoring options. The focus on at-home care models means Stony Brook is growing "around the fringes of the platform," according to Ms. Popwell.

The forward-looking strategy extends to the system's medical and life sciences schools training future clinicians and scientists. Many graduates want to stay local, Ms. Popwell said, which is good news for the organization.

"We're not thinking about what's the care model of today," she said. "We're thinking about what's the care model 10 years from now and throughout our strategic planning process, we're going to start to implement different curriculum items related to artificial intelligence, machine learning, you name it. We're thinking about what [healthcare will] look like down the road so we can prepare the workforce for the future."

John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital and Florida Health Sciences Center at the University of Southern Florida, said he doesn't think about the organization as a health system either.

"We look at ourselves as a family of businesses," he said. "We are more of a conglomerate in a good way. It's the notion of having all sorts of joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries, and of course our mothership. But it's really a family of businesses to address the healthcare challenges."

Tampa General and Florida Health Sciences Center is a collaboration with the University of South Florida its health services division. The organization has a large academic medical center and more than 130 locations, and deep relationships with a few great partners.

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