I have been coming across references in articles to the industrialization of healthcare with increasingly frequency. The most recent was in my note quoting an article suggesting that such industrialization has been increasing (see: Predictions for the Post-EHR IT Era; Business Continuity Challenges). Hence, I thought that it would be useful to gain a better understanding of the term. I turned to an article on this specific topic (see: Health Care Becomes an Industry). Below is an excerpt from it:
The delivery of health care is in the process of “industrialization” in that it is undergoing changes in the organization of work which mirror those that began in other industries a century ago. This process is characterized by  an increasing division of labor,  standardization of roles and tasks,  the rise of a managerial superstructure, and the  degradation (or de-skilling) of work. The consolidation of the health care industry, the fragmentation of physician roles, and the increasing numbers of nonphysician clinicians will likely accelerate this process. Although these changes hold the promise of more efficient and effective health care, physicians should be concerned about the resultant loss of autonomy, disruption of continuity of care, and the potential erosion of professional values....As the [20th] century progressed, the work of physicians steadily splintered into narrower disciplines.
The first [medical] specialists focused on particular organ systems or illnesses. Within these disciplines, however, there was still the opportunity for continuity of care. In contrast, the most recent specialties—emergency medicine, intensivists, and hospitalists—focus on a particular stage of care and have fulfilled Taylor’s prediction of the primacy of the system over the individual. These physicians typically work in shifts, and their relationship with the patients they care for begins and ends with their shift. The fragmentation of care is seen not only among physicians, but also in the utilization of nurses and other nonphysician clinicians to perform tasks that were traditionally the responsibility of physicians.....The increased fragmentation of care, particularly the development of process-oriented specialists such as hospitalists, has its critics. Although the stated impetus behind the development of the hospitalist specialty is increased efficiency and quality of care, the benefit (if any) appears to be primarily in the domain of efficiency. Some observers have decried the resultant loss of continuity and argue that such changes are primarily economically driven and may hurt the quality of a patient’s care.
Any physician will be acutely aware of the fact that one of the major effects of the fragmentation of healthcare has been the disruption of the continuity of care. Patients are often asked to supply the "glue" relating to their own care. For example and during a physician visit, they may be asked what other physicians have they seen in the past and what has happened during such visits. The reason is that documentation of these past visits may not be readily available. Healthcare IT can potentially serve as a substitute for this patient-supplied glue (see: Expanding the Definition of the Early Health Model).
Although there have been many gains achieved by the increased number of hospitalists caring for patients in hospitals, one of the challenges of this trend has been a disruption of the continuity of care for patients moving from physician office care to inpatient settings (see: Hospitalists Add to Medicare Costs According to Recent Study). The primary care physician or specialist admitting a patient to the hospital turns over the responsibility for a patient to a hospitalist who is often meeting the patient for the first time.
When nurses and house officers in hospitals change shifts, there is always an effort to brief the incoming staff about the status of the patients for whom they will provide care, particularly the most ill. Sometimes this exchange of information is inadequate because of time constraints. Ideally, EHR's could or should serve as a substitute for these briefings. However and because of EHR design and organizational issues, summarizing a patient's current condition from the EHR is challenging (see: Para-EHR Clinical Data Not Being Captured and Keeps Getting Bigger; Are electronic health records already too cluttered?).
In many ways, "first generation" EHRs have failed to optimize clinical care and failed to counteract the increasing fragmentation of healthcare delivery (see: Predictions for the Post-EHR IT Era; Business Continuity Challenges). This is due, in part, to the fact that the EHRs have been primarily designed to optimize billing and charge capture and not clinical care delivery. Here's a quote from my note from four years ago that makes this point (see: Upcoding Can Result in Greater Healthcare Costs After EMR Deployment):
In an ideal world and in an ideal healthcare system, all of the incentives support the efficient use of resources to deliver top-notch care. In our real world, one of the primary drivers for EMR deployments over the last several decades has been billing optimization, which is to say increasing revenue from payers for services rendered to patients. Algorithms within automated billing systems analyze the billing codes assigned to patients and suggest different ones that are still justifiable but which result in greater reimbursement for the provider. This is called "upcoding" and is the norm for all of the financial modules that are components of EMR systems.