Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Highmark and MedExpress - Strategic Agility

In reading the McKinsey Quarterly article for this week entitled “Competing through organizational agility,” I couldn’t help but think of the area’s current healthcare provider/payor battle between UPMC and Highmark/West Penn.  The article discusses organizational agility, and I feel that strategic agility is very much evident in our current healthcare environment, locally and nationally.

I was especially intrigued by one of the ideas stated in the article that “strategic agility consists of spotting and seizing game-changing opportunities.” [1] This is very recently evident in Highmark’s collaboration with MedExpress to build an urgent care facility in Braddock at the very site where UPMC demolished its Braddock Hospital a few years ago. This urgent care center will address the huge gap in access to medical care since the closing of UPMC’s hospital. Also, unlike other urgent care facilities, Highmark’s facility will accept Medicaid patients. The previous UPMC Braddock’s emergency department would see around 22,000 patients annually, many of whom earn low incomes, and this population will now be served by the Highmark facility. [2]

This is definitely strategic agility on behalf of Highmark and MedExpress. They saw the obvious need for care in an area where it was recently taken away. According to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, “Others could have…but nobody stepped up until Highmark and MedExpress did.” [2] This is exactly what the McKinsey article means when it suggests the “combination of patients (to wait for the right time to strike) and boldness (acting when that time arises)” that are necessary for strategic agility of an organization. [1]

This is an interesting example in the business driving the healthcare industry. My questions for this topic center on the ethical implications of healthcare organizations and their strategic initiatives. When do non-profit healthcare institutions cross the line in deciding what is best for patients and what is best for them? How can we ensure that the billion dollar healthcare giants in our own city are abiding by their commitment to the community?

[1] Sull, Donald. "Competing through Organizational Agility." McKinsey Quarterly (2010): 1-9.
[2] Barcousky, Len. (11 April 2012). “Highmark, MedExpress join forces for center in Braddock.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved from

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