Don’t Let Medicare Sequestration Cuts Knock Out Your CAH

Posted on June 4, 2013

With Medicare sequestration cuts looming, rural hospitals are being billed as the underdogs in a battle of volume vs. value.

That leaves your CAH with three choices. You can throw in the towel. Take a duck-and-cover stance. Or become leaner and greener ($) - now - so you're ready to go the distance.

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It will take some calculated moves to position your CAH for success under values-based payment. But the good news is that you have options. Lots of them. For starters, consider these approaches:

  • Establish a readmissions committee. Charge the committee with monitoring and reducing readmission rates along with establishing post-discharge follow-up protocols. Reducing readmissions to enhance quality of care can help avoid financial losses under CMS's new payment structure.
  • Develop new financial models and plans that account for potential reduced revenues. This includes loss of critical access and sole provider funding.
  • Form telehealth partnerships for specialty services. Also consider offering nonlocal physicians and specialists admitting privileges (i.e., allow them to see patients at your facility when they are in town).
  • Network with larger health systems in the area. This can provide access to more specialists and allow CAHs to participate in a broader continuum of care and be better positioned for value-based payment.

While the challenges faced by rural hospitals are like none we've ever seen before, remember that change brings opportunity. And now's the time to commit to be fit, to stay in the game.

What's your game plan?

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Rural Hospitals: If You’re Out of Site, You’re Out of Mind

Posted on June 11, 2013

OK, so your rural hospital has a website. But what have you done with it lately?

With healthcare reform staring us straight in the eyes, this is no time to go "site unseen."  And if you're not expanding your web capabilities, you're not getting the exposure you need to grow volume and revenue.

Think of it this way …

Your website gives you a chance to look as big as the "big dogs," as technically advanced as your big-city competitors and as committed to consumers' health and satisfaction as you say you are. That can get consumers to visit your website. It can turn those visitors into patients, which can ultimately lead to increased revenue for your hospital.

Take a long hard look at your website. How can you leverage it to empower patients and improve their experience? Think about:

  • Online bill pay.
  • Online preregistration.
  • Tools to obtain quality data and price information.
  • Ability to update insurance information online.
  • Personal health management tools to:
    • Help patients track medical expenses.
    • Review their medical history.
    • Set and monitor health goals.
  • Virtual tours of your hospital.
  • Online job posting/applications.
  • Patient loyalty program.

We've helped our clients incorporate these and other enhancements into their sites. And they're proving to be well worth the investment.

Many of our clients have found that consumers who use their online resources are return users. That means the tools on their websites are providing a positive experience for patients, which, in the end, leads to increased patient satisfaction and volumes.

I'm willing to venture that's a sight every rural hospital would like to see this year.

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It’s Time for Rural Hospitals to ‘Go Over Board’

Posted on June 26, 2013

As the healthcare industry continues its fast-paced journey toward value-driven healthcare, it's time for rural hospitals to take a closer look at who is - figuratively and literally - on board.

Recent studies indicate that many rural chairs and CEOs lack full confidence in their board's ability to effectively conduct oversight and governance functions. This is not - I repeat - NOT a reflection of the competency of the board members themselves. So why the lack of confidence?

According to a report by Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), rural hospitals need to address several factors to get board members ready to lead the way into uncharted healthcare reform territory. For example:

  • Board membership requirements are often undefined and orientation for new members is often lacking.
    • Expectations need to be clearly communicated before appointments are made.
    • Orientation should be conducted for all new members to ensure they fully understand their roles and their relationship to hospital executives and staff.
    • Well-defined job descriptions must be developed.
      • Has your hospital put board members' responsibilities in writing?
      • If so, have those responsibilities changed or crept out of scope since you developed the "job description?"
  • Many boards lack Quality of Care/Patient Safety committees.
    • Increasing importance is being placed on quality of care, yet many rural hospital boards lack committees that provide oversight for this function. Boards may also lack context for reviewing quality data.
    • Board meetings should be structured to allocate a substantial amount of time to the review of quality and safety outcomes.
  • Boards are not composed of the 'right' mix of members.
    • It is imperative that boards include local community leaders who can understand the complexities of the emerging payment environment and make difficult decisions in light of this new era.

Just as it's time for rural hospitals to take an outside-the-box approach to marketing, it's also time to think outside of the box when recruiting board members.

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