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Timely patient satisfaction surveys: No longer an option

May 20th, 2015

by Tom Scaletta

The healthcare industry is making major strides to elevate patient satisfaction as a key performance indicator. In fact, due to these satisfaction survey scores' influence on value-based reimbursement, the focus on them is only expected to grow inside the walls of healthcare organizations.

In addition, the trend toward patient consumerism means that patients also demand transparency in satisfaction survey findings. As patients are encouraged to take more control over their care--selecting providers based on quality, cost and convenience--surveys will play a substantial role in either attracting them or driving them away.

Yet even with so much riding on survey results, most healthcare organizations still rely on traditional paper-based post-discharge survey methods that have some inherent and significant limitations. Administrators need to understand the confines of traditional surveys to avoid the risk of using instruments that provide flawed data.

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ProMedica decision enables aggressive approach to hospital merger enforcement

May 20th, 2015

by Charles Johnson

In their effort to slow the pace of hospital consolidations, federal regulators have taken a new approach that has led to increased success. The Supreme Court recently declined to review the application of this new approach, suggesting that it will continue to be employed for the foreseeable future, with far-reaching consequences for the healthcare industry.

Since the early 1980s, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has challenged hospital mergers that it believed to be anticompetitive, often successfully blocking such mergers before they were even consummated.

In the late 1990s, however, the FTC lost eight straight hospital merger challenges, either due to the its failure to establish the relevant market, its inability to convince the courts that the predicted anticompetitive effects would ever materialize, or due to a perception that a not-for-profit hospital's conduct is driven only by benign intentions.

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Activity-based costing helps providers deliver high-quality, low-cost care

May 20th, 2015

by Jonathan H. Burroughs

One of the seminal challenges of our healthcare profession is to measure actual costs in real time. All payers (e.g. the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, employers, consumers/patients, etc.) are willing to pay for healthcare services based upon our real costs with a reasonable margin; however, our inability (or now unwillingness) to do so is leading to reference-based pricing by payers and a "take it or leave it" approach that is frustrating for everyone concerned.

A better approach is to embrace the tools and techniques available to look at real direct/indirect, fixed/variable costs in real time so that not only can we see what they are, but so we can manage and contract for them in a more transparent and dynamic way.

Cost accounting has come a long way: from the rudiments of capacity determination (costs calculated based upon the percent utilization of a cost center) to direct costs (costs associated with a specific service or production) to activity based costing (ABC) that accounts for indirect costs (costs allocated to all services/productions such as administration, utilities, overhead etc.) to time-driven, activity-based costing that takes into account direct/indirect costs over the continuum of a service or production. This concept was introduced in the November 2004 issue of the Harvard Business Review and updated for healthcare in the November-December 2014 edition of the Journal of Healthcare Management by none other than Robert S. Kaplan and Steven R. Anderson, who introduced the concept of ABC decades earlier.

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Unique device identifiers can save hospitals millions

May 14th, 2015

by Joe Drozda and Josh Rising

Hospitals across the country face increased pressure to reduce healthcare costs while delivering high-quality care. In today's environment, how can they rein in spending while improving patient outcomes?

There's no easy answer, but hospitals do have an effective option in the management of medical devices, such as coronary artery stents and implantable hips and knees, which account for more than $150 billion in healthcare spending each year. A new tool developed by the Food and Drug Administration can help hospitals better track medical devices, and give doctors and their patients more information on the technology they're using.

The "unique device identifier," or UDI, system assigns distinctive codes to medical devices so they can be located throughout the healthcare system. Once these codes are incorporated into hospital supply chains and electronic health records, they can help hospitals better manage inventory, coordinate patient care among multiple physicians and contact patients quickly if there is a problem, such as a recall.

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How providers can use mHealth to reach millennials (and Gen Xers)

May 14th, 2015

by Jenn Riggle

There is a lot of excitement about how mobile health (mHealth) can transform healthcare and improve the patient-clinician relationship. And while there may be some concerns about sharing mHealth data and the fact that hospital IT systems may not be ready to analyze all of this information, mHealth provides an important way to reach tech-savvy millennials (and their older counterparts, Gen X).

A recent PNC Healthcare survey showed that millennials have limited interactions with their primary care physicians (PCP), and are less likely (61 percent) to visit their PCP than baby boomers (80 percent) or seniors (85 percent). Convenience is paramount to millennials, who are twice as likely to visit retail clinics and acute care clinics than other generations. For a busy professional or working parent, it's great to be able to be seen by a clinician on your lunch hour or on the weekend without having to book an appointment.

Even though millennials have difficulty finding the time to see a doctor, most are willing to use digital and mobile technology to engage with their physicians. According to Salesforce's recently released 2015 State of the Connected Patient report, more than half (60 percent) would be interested in having video chats with their physician rather than participating an in-office visit. In addition, 71 percent would be interested in having their PCP give them a mobile app to help them manage preventive care, review health records and schedule appointments.

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