As the Affordable Care Act places increased pressure on hospitals, most hospital leaders say their top priority is to reduce costs by maximizing performance against government risk-based payment and quality metrics, according to a new study from sales and marketing firm ZS. That goal could create an opportunity for medtech companies looking to expand beyond their traditional role as suppliers and partner with hospitals to help them improve patient outcomes.

For the 2016 Hospital Leadership Survey, ZS surveyed 85 US-based hospital executives, including C-suite executives and departmental leaders across service lines. Results showed that respondents ranked cost reduction as their top priority, indicating that they hoped to do this by performing well against the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) risk-based payment and quality metrics. Respondents ranked performance against CMS metrics over 50% more important than efforts to control the cost of medical products, ZS found.

That shift in priorities could create new opportunities for manufacturers. “In the past, hospitals have looked to control costs by actively attacking product cost,” says ZS Principal Brian Chapman. “However, reimbursement changes have increasingly tied clinical outcomes to hospitals’ bottom line. For medtech, this is great news. It is no longer a zero-sum game where medtech has to lose on price for hospitals to win. Forward-thinking companies are going beyond the traditional arsenal of products, reps, and price to help hospitals improve patient outcomes and performance on quality metrics. This can help them to become hospitals’ number one ally.”

While hospitals rely on manufacturers for improved technology, procedures, and treatment methodology, most remain skeptical that those companies can help them meet quality metrics, the survey found.

“Medtech companies must prepare for a strategic transformation to better align with hospitals’ evolving needs,” Chapman says. “Companies that take the bold steps necessary to reshape their portfolios, value propositions and go-to-market strategies will find new ways to effectively work with hospital stakeholders. Moving beyond the role of product supplier to outcome-oriented partner will pay long-term dividends for all involved.”

ZS has released an infographic illustrating the results of the survey.