Healthcare Providers Are Feeling the Squeeze: Cost-cutting alone just won’t cut it

“Healthcare providers as a group continue to operate with slim and shrinking margins,” according to recent analysis from Modern Healthcare. Sadly, that’s not a surprise to most of us. The study—which included acute-care, post-acute care, rehabilitation and specialty hospital groups as well as stand-alone hospitals— found that the average operating margin in 2013 was 3.1%, which was down from 3.6% in 2012. Over 61% of organizations saw their operating margins erode over the previous year.

While we’ve seen this coming, the news is sobering. And analysts are skeptical that the worst is over. According to Modern Healthcare, all three credit-rating agencies hold negative outlooks for the not-for-profit healthcare sector.

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What if the Hospital of the Future is Not a Hospital?

What will the hospital of the future look like? Not that much like hospitals looked 10 years ago according to an article in HealthLeaders. That conclusion is probably not a huge surprise to those of us in healthcare who have seen the shift away from an inpatient setting as the primary care modality. And while inpatient care may still be the anchor of many health systems, its role in the continuum of care is dramatically changing.

Author Phil Betbeze writes that the hospital of the future will be “a cohesive amalgamation of plenty of outpatient modalities that represent growth in healthcare.” He goes on to point out that while this shift doesn’t mean new patient towers won’t be constructed, it does mean that any construction undertaken “will be based on adaptability, patient flow and efficiency gains.”

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Most Wired Hospitals

Hospitals & Health Networks, the magazine of the American Hospital Association recently released its list of the “Most Wired Hospitals, 2014.” On this notable list were a number of MedSpeed partners including UPMC, Advocate, Avera, Inova, Rush and Orlando Health. Congratulations to those and the other institutions recognized.

According to the cover story announcing the 16th annual Hospitals & Health Networks’ Most Wired list, hospitals that top the list employ a strategy around second-curve metrics to align health systems, physicians, clinical and nonclinical people across the continuum of care. Wired hospitals have effectively deployed a variety of foundational technologies and now have their eyes on data analytics and population health management.

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In This Era of Big Data, Avoid Being Data Rich and Information Poor

We live in the era of “big data.” It’s a term we come across on a nearly daily basis. The biggest problem with big data—pardon the play on words—is that data alone without insight can leave you information poor.

Recently, at Becker’s Hospital Review 5th Annual Meeting, one of the keynote speakers, Toby Cosgrove, MD, president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, touched on how his organization was dealing with big data through its spin-off Explorys, which ties together disparate healthcare data from providers, payers, care settings and EMRs. The goal of Explorys is to help the Cleveland Clinic and other healthcare organizations manage and make sense of big data: because data is only data, unless you know how to utilize it to make improvements.

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You Get What You Pay For – There is More to Cost Than Price

Financial viability is the order of the day for hospitals and health systems. However, when looking for savings, a service or item that is the cheapest is not necessarily the lowest cost.

A recent HealthLeaders’ article, “Find Deeper Healthcare Supply Chain Savings,” which I referenced last week, looked at what a number of systems are doing in order to reduce costs in their supply chain. Main Line Health (MLH), a 1,295-bed health system with $1.4 billion in annual operating revenue was featured in the article because it has undergone an organization-wide initiative to reduce supply chain spending.

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When the Low Hanging Fruit Has Been Picked, What’s Next? Value!

New reimbursement models have forced hospitals and health systems to go after all of the low hanging expenses they can. But cost-cutting alone—stuff and staff—will not produce the total savings needed. A recent article in HealthLeaders points out that successful healthcare organizations are taking a much closer look at their supply chain in order to create strategic savings opportunities.

In the article, Steve Cashton, director of purchasing and contracting at Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, says, “You really can’t cut your way to success by reducing staff so we started looking at where we can improve our margins with the supply chain.”

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Create New Organizational Structure to Successfully Reduce Costs

Annual cost reduction targets have most healthcare organizations scrambling. Despite concerted efforts, many internal cost reduction initiatives “fail to produce the level of savings required” as Liz Kirk writes in Healthcare Finance News.

Why is that? Many factors can contribute to the success or failure of an organization to achieve savings’ goals, but the most common mistake is not taking a holistic approach. Ms. Kirk contends that rather than a conventional cost reduction approach lead by the CFO, a successful initiative should include the financial and operational senior leaders, as well as support teams and cost leaders. The key is to effectively balance quality and patient satisfaction with savings.

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How Will Recent Healthcare Legislation Disrupt How Labs Conduct Business?

Over the past couple of years, I have often written about the challenges confronting hospitals and health systems as a result of the Affordable Care Act. And now, new legislative changes in healthcare laws are impacting another segment of the healthcare supply chain: laboratories.

Two weeks ago in New Orleans, the 19th Annual Executive War College on Laboratory and Pathology Management brought together 800 clinical laboratory professionals and pathologists. One of the major topics covered was the legislation passed by Congress and recently signed into law by President Obama called “Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014” (PAMA). In his keynote address, Robert L. Michel, founder of the Executive War College, said that PAMA is the single biggest change to the clinical laboratory industry in more than 25 years.

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Sustainability for Successful Healthcare Management

Traditionally, when we hear the word “sustainability,” it conjures up ideas of the health of the environment and the idea of “going green.” And that is clearly a very large part of the sustainability movement, but the concept of sustainability extends further.

MedSpeed is a member of Practice Greenhealth, a not-for profit organization whose mission is to be “the source for environmental solutions for the healthcare sector that lends support to create better, safer, greener workplaces and communities.” Earlier this year, Laura Wenger, Executive Director of Practice Greenhealth wrote, “Sustainability isn’t just about environmental stewardship. As the [health] sector faces increased financial pressures, more hospitals and health care facilities should prioritize sustainability as a way to strategically manage rising costs.”

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Stretching Outside of the Four Hospital Walls

Not long ago, adding more patient beds was the principle capital expenditure for many health systems and hospitals. But in today’s environment of value-based care, that has changed.

Healthcare leaders are shifting their capital strategies. According to “Reevaluating capital spending strategies”, from Healthcare Finance News, “As healthcare reimbursement shifts from a system that rewards quantity of care to quality of care, the onus is on the CFO to determine where best to allocate financial resources.”

Now, in order to provide care outside of traditional settings, systems focus on outpatient care and deploy capital to acquire physician practices that grow their reach.  Systems are also more prudent about equipment purchases and work to share equipment between facilities.

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