Will Your Hospital Stand the Test of Time?
Rural Hospitals Must Take Action to Right Themselves
Time is of the essence for community and rural hospitals. Since 2010, 88 of them have shut down, with more closures to come. Immediate action is required to help others avoid the same fate. Employees, patients and rural communities depend on it.
An operational assessment is often the first step to improving a hospital’s prospects. This process evaluates strategy, operations, staffing, supply chain, revenue cycle and leadership with the aim of reducing costs and increasing revenue—the tried-and-true formula for financial solvency.
Operational assessments identify ways for hospitals to endure through trying times. Some relatively easy improvements can impact bottom-line results. Other identified areas for improvement take more time and effort but bring about greater financial and performance lifts.
Now is the time when rural and community hospitals must take action to strengthen their position and improve their bottom line.
- Begin by looking at the basics. Yoakum Community Hospital in Yoakum, Texas, began qualifying patients’ payer status prior to admission. Self-pay patients may qualify for Medicaid or another reimbursement source. This step alone can significantly increase revenue.
- Strengthen physician relations. Great Plains Health, North Platte, Neb., includes physicians in leadership positions to enhance relationships between hospital executives and medical staff. Physicians account for roughly one-third of the hospital’s board, so they have a voice in the hospital’s strategic decisions. Hospital-physician collaboration can improve quality and cost-efficiency. And because a hospital’s growth and success depend partly on the right mix of physicians and specialists, creating or revising the medical staff development plan should also be on a hospital’s “to-do” list.
- Benchmark performance against similar hospitals. Compare clinical data. This is a great way to identify opportunities for improvement and cost savings, and to shift toward value-based care.
- Think about partnerships and affiliations. If internal improvements aren’t sufficient, community hospitals may want to consider forming relationships with other organizations. Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of a potential partnership. What is the community hospital expected to provide? What amount of control will the hospital cede for the expected benefits of the partnership? Make sure cultures are aligned and define expectations at the start.
- Ensure board involvement. When board members are well-educated about their responsibilities, including overseeing finances, clinical quality and strategy, their support and ideas can be invaluable.