Publisher’s Letter (May 2006)

Tired of being the whipping boy


Dear Reader:          

As the healthcare building boom has continued in recent years, and as Healthcare Real Estate Insights has become better known, we have received an increasing number of interview requests from the media.

Just so far this year, we’ve been quoted in The New York Times, USA Today and several other major newspapers, as well as a number of regional business publications, and several trade magazines, including Development, which is published by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), and hfm, which is published by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). I was even interviewed last week for a syndicated radio program.

It’s good exposure for HREI, of course. Whenever we’re quoted in a national publication, our Web traffic goes off the charts – which helps to sell subscriptions.

But, those interviews can be a slippery slope. Let me explain.

Journalists are trained to leave controversial interview questions until the end. In part, that’s because reporters try to build rapport, which makes it more likely their tough questions will be answered. But it’s also because, if a source is going to walk out in a huff or slam down the phone because they don’t like where the interview is headed, journalists want to get most of the Q&A completed before that happens. They have articles to write and deadlines to meet.

So, when we’re being interviewed, which tough question do you suppose comes at the end? Almost invariably, it’s this one:

“Do you think that the hospital building boom is what’s driving up healthcare costs?”

Groan. I consider that question to be a dead giveaway of, at best, an objective journalist who doesn’t fully understand the healthcare industry or, at worst, a biased reporter who is looking for a quote to support a negative story.

Although I am weary of being asked that question, at least I’ve learned how to answer it. Here’s what I say – and what I believe:

“The healthcare building boom isn’t the primary cause of higher healthcare costs. You are.”

Or, more accurately, we all are. Here’s why.

All of us believe that we are entitled to the finest healthcare available. We demand the finest physicians, nurses and staff; we research and insist on the latest technology and treatment methods; and, yes, we seek the best facilities available. (If you doubt that, you or your loved ones haven’t had a serious illness lately.)

U.S. consumers are the most demanding, sophisticated consumers in the world. From cars to coffee, we want the best possible value. Sure, price matters, and as consumers shoulder a growing share of their own healthcare costs, it will matter even more.

But, healthcare providers are simply a product of our consumer culture. To fulfill their missions, meet their operational objectives and compete effectively, they are literally compelled to invest in personnel, technology and, of course, facilities.

We want facilities that are modern, clean, comfortable, convenient and state of the art. A Hill-Burton era facility? Forget it. Dingy waiting rooms? No thanks. A semi-private room? You must be joking!

No, Mr. and Ms. Journalist, the healthcare construction boom isn’t the cause of rising healthcare costs. It’s an effect. And it’s the American way.

Murray W. Wolf, Publisher

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