The US healthcare industry provides one of the country’s most essential services. Hospitals are at the forefront of this life-saving sector, yet a number of operational problems continually hound them.
In an annual survey of top issues that affect hospitals, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) found financial challenges, patient safety and quality services, and government mandates were at the top of the list.
It’s worthwhile taking a closer look at some of these issues and identifying their underlying causes. Hopefully by doing so, we can find some measures that hospitals can implement to address them.
1. Medical billing
The issue of billing can be a complex one as it requires the involvement of many healthcare stakeholders. In addition, each stakeholder will have varying levels of bureaucracy to deal with. Without an efficient system to track billings and payments, hospitals risk losing a potentially crucial portion of revenue.
One way to address this is tightening processes around extracting patient information such as demographics and health insurance status. Key to this effort is proper training and orientation of front-end staff responsible for registering patients.
Another way is to utilize medical billing and coding services that remove the need for manual processing of administrative data.
The shortage of physicians and nurses is a very real problem. When hospitals fail to reach the optimal number of professions who can attend to the needs of patients, revenue and service quality both take a hit.
Hospitals can consider partnering with other institutions that are in a position to help. For instance, hospitals may coordinate with other health systems in tapping available nursing students who are set to do clinical work. The arrangement will depend on the needs and priorities of both parties.
3. Alignment with physicians
It is usually the case that hospitals employ a small percentage of physicians working in the facility with the vast majority working as independent providers. This can have a negative impact on the overall quality of care provision.
Physicians that are not as integrated and engaged with management may prioritize their individual approach over the overall strategy of the entire hospital, which needs to perform as one cohesive organization.
A good solution to get more independent provides involved is co-management of hospital services lines (e.g. orthopedic, cardiovascular lines). The key is collaborating and consulting with physicians in finding the best ways to serve patients.
4. Compliance with regulations
With the constant changes around government mandates, such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, hospitals must frequently adjust their policies and guidelines. These constant shifts can lead to disruptions in patient care, safety issues, and overall operations.
In addition, hospitals could also find themselves needing to comply with future regulations on reducing carbon output. With the growing importance of climate change, many facilities would need to take these concerns into considerations.
While there are no straightforward solutions with regards to government regulations, an important emphasis should be made about maintaining effective communication channels with government bodies. By doing so, hospital managers receive timely and important information on changes that need to take place.