The rate of mergers and acquisitions in the last year is downright dizzying. Some say they are up there with death and taxes as M&A activity amongst hospitals and healthcare systems has become one of life’s certainties. Ever since the passage of the ACA in 2010, the rate of M&A has risen by 70 percent, with this increase mostly attributed to payment cuts. In 2017, “an unprecedented 115 hospitals and health system transactions were announced.”
With this record-breaking pace of healthcare merger and acquisitions, it’s only a matter of time before you get the memo announcing your hospital’s consolidation. In an instant, questions will swirl in your head; “Do the new owners understand the business?” “Do they respect the culture and value what you’ve accomplished?” “When will I know more?” “Am I expendable?” “Do I still have a job?” “What do I do now?”
First off, don’t panic. You may feel anxious and want it to be over quickly, but it won’t be that fast, clean or simple. The new owners are going through a transition too, and it’ll take months to roll out their plan. You may be tempted to keep a low profile and wait for the storm to pass but being proactive about making the changes work for you will position yourself for continued employment.
Just Merged? Four Strategies Hospital Staff Can Use to Successfully Weather a Merger
Prepare for Change and Find the Positives
Mergers mean change, there is no way around it. Locations, procedures, policies, management, and staff will very possibly all be different. Since each hospital and health system has its own processes, there will be a period of cultural adjustment while the two institutions merge to form one cohesive unit. Leading up to a merger and during the first few months of implementation, there will be fears of uncertainty and feelings of loss. The best way for hospital staff to face a merger is not to let fear drive their thoughts, feelings, and decisions. Embrace change. And embrace the new culture – you might learn something constructive about how the company functions.
Just as there are threats, there’s also the potential for positives, and you must actively look for them. While there are many who say these mergers are having a negative impact on healthcare, research points to a far different conclusion. A study by economists at Charles River Associates “found that hospital mergers can result in efficiencies that unleash savings, innovation, and quality improvement.”
Attend All Information Sessions, Meetings, and Briefings
A wonderful way to reduce the stress of uncertainty associated with mergers is to get informed by reliable sources. Before and during a merger, water cooler gossip is readily available. However, don't believe everything you hear. Information whirling around the rumor mill can be misleading and, in many cases, complete fiction. Instead of getting information third or fourth hand, it is best to go straight to the source. Thus, staff should attend all information sessions, meetings and briefings the hospital or hospital system conduct. If a staff member is unable to participate in informational sessions, it is advisable to inquire with the HR department to get copies of transition information. For staff involved in a merger, having accurate information in hand can reduce the fear of the unknown significantly, minimizing panic and stress.
Realign your plans and Make Friends
This is the time to become very open-minded, calibrate your plans and outcomes to fit the new administration. It is not the time to inquire about a raise, make demands or give an attitude of entitlement. The new leaders are not there to adapt to you. They are there to improve efficiency and quality. They will be assessing everyone’s value and viewing each person as an expense. This is the time to set aside your personal agenda and find a way to relate to the new leadership and show your collaboration skills and worth. Introduce yourself to key players and ask them how you can assist with the transition and help with the integration. Sell them on how you can contribute. By making the new leaders’ job easier, you get to quantify your impact and demonstrate that you can get with the program.
Get Ready for New Opportunities
While the opinion of mergers is often viewed as unfavorable, there can be several remarkable benefits for staff. For example, Charles River Associates found that “hospitals in the study were able to cut annual operating expenses by 2.5 percent or $5.8 million” on average. Thus, with additional cost savings, merged institutions can provide better employee benefits, since now the financial strain is reduced, and there are more resources available. Similarly, the new company may have more budget and a commitment to growth that could send more business and leadership opportunities your way.
Additionally, training and learning opportunities can increase, since not only are there more financial resources available, there are now new team members who bring new thoughts, ideas, and approaches to the table. This can create an invaluable learning environment that benefits both hospital staff and the patients they treat.
Moving Forward in Uncertainty
The silence and uncertainty in a merger will be personally disruptive and there will be a period of tension, uncertainty and even chaos. You’ll be stuck in a holding pattern as you wait for the new protocols to unfold. It may get worse before it gets better and if you can stick it out, you may reap the rewards of a lot of perks. When done well, M& A can achieve valuable outcomes according to Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and the Healthcare Financial Management Association. But don’t kid yourself: There will be layoffs. On average, roughly 30% of employees are deemed redundant after a merger or acquisition in the same industry. But you don’t have to be one of them. By objectively assessing your situation and seizing opportunities to prove your value, you can set your own trajectory.
Whether you choose to stay on board and embrace the dynamic, intense integration or you polish up your resume and reconnect to your outside peer network, you have options. If you are a medical professional whose hospital has recently merged, and you now feel that your employer is no longer a fit for you, it is time to turn to the experts at MedSource Consultants. At MedSource Consultants, we work with physicians and advanced practice professionals to find the right hospital and position for them. Contact our top healthcare recruiters today to learn more!