Hospitals nationwide are being pressured and, in some cases, forced to adapt to changing demands in the health care industry. Rising expectations in the quality of delivering care, the cost structure of health care and a looming shortage of personnel are just a few issues hospitals are looking for solutions to. Dr. Cary Gutbezahl, president and CEO of Compass Clinical Consulting, specializes in hospital consultation. His firm helps hospitals solve these issues by improving efficiencies.
Smart Business spoke to Dr. Gutbezahl about how hospitals are streamlining their operations to combat health care issues.
What are the most pressing issues facing hospitals today?
Hospitals are facing a couple of important challenges. One is rising expectations for the processes and results of delivering care. That means things related to improving patient safety, reducing the occurrences of undesirable events and reducing hospital readmissions.
The other pressure is the cost structure of health care. The way it has been funded has generated some pretty significant overhead costs and investment in technology that have made health care costs rise to the point where they are pretty much unsustainable both for private-sector insurance as well as for public insurance.
The third challenge which is looming on the horizon is shortage of personnel. In the future, with rising demand for health care services and the aging of the existing population, there is going to be a severe imbalance between supply and demand.
How are hospitals looking to solve some of these issues?
The challenges give hospitals a number of opportunities to make some changes both in their traditional scope of operation as well as expanding their scope of operation.
One of the areas that hospitals have had incentives to work on, but many hospitals haven’t addressed is the issue of how to manage hospital care expeditiously in order to minimize the amount of time and expenses that are provided for a patient.
A number of hospitals have patients stay a number of hours in the emergency department. They are sitting in the emergency department waiting for an inpatient bed, but in the meantime, they are not getting the physician consultation and diagnostic tests that you would normally get as an inpatient. One way that hospitals can accelerate care is to make sure patients either get to a bed quickly, or that the care process begins while the patient is in the emergency department so there aren’t hours waiting for things to happen.
They also have to recognize when a patient’s care can be safely transitioned to an outpatient setting. Some hospitals are identifying and working with the physicians and nurses to say this patient can get the rest of their care as an outpatient with home health care or with outpatient rehabilitation therapies.
What is the main focus of hospitals right now?
Right now there are two things that hospitals should be focusing on and they are related. One is called throughput. That is increasing the capacity of the existing facilities, meaning both space and people, by redesigning the way patients flow through the health care delivery system so that they move more quickly.
That means people sitting in the emergency room for less time so that the existing beds in the emergency room can accommodate more patients. It means moving patients through the inpatient side quicker so the hospital doesn’t need to build additional beds in order to house people for inpatient care. If hospitals have to build more beds, then the costs are going to rise. The only way to try and keep the cost of health care down is going to be to work on these through put issues throughout the hospitals. The ORs, the inpatient beds, critical care units, emergency department, all areas of the hospital where there are backups in terms of patient flow.
The second thing is looking at how we redesign the delivering of health care services so it becomes more efficient. One technique that’s being used on the outpatient side in a number of large multispecialty medical groups is the idea of group appointments. You have a number of patients who have similar kinds of clinical problems. Instead of meeting with each of them one by one … a number of these organizations are scheduling group meetings for patients who have [the same diseases].
HOW TO REACH: Compass Clinical Consulting, (513) 241-0142 or www.compass-clinical.com