Reducing the number of urinary tract infections (UTIs)—and saving approximately $53,000 in medical costs per patient—is just one example of how Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center is improving quality and reducing costs.
Benchmark data from the American College of Surgeon’s National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP®) showed that Saint Francis had a higher post-surgical UTI rate than its peers. “When we brought these data to the hospital’s quality committee, we realized that catheter-associated UTIs were a problem throughout the hospital, not just in surgery,” says Scott J. Ellner, DO, MPH, FACS, vice chairman of surgery and director of surgical quality at Saint Francis in Hartford, Conn. “So we got buy-in from all the key stakeholders and leaders and worked together to reduce our UTI rate.” One key change was to encourage the prompt removal of urinary catheters within two days of surgery, which is recognized standard of care. A standing protocol was put in place that allows nurses to remove catheters from patients meeting specific criteria without a physician’s permission. “We knew what the problem was,” says Ellner who is also a practicing general surgeon. “It was just getting everyone on the same page.” As a result of the team effort, the hospital’s rate of catheter-associated UTIs went from 3 percent to 1 percent among all patients. When asked what is critical to a successful surgical improvement program, Ellner points to a variety of factors, including trustworthy data and alliances with key stakeholders.
“The best way to get people to buy into a quality improvement program is to share clinical outcomes and data metrics that they will actually believe,” says Ellner. The ACS NSQIP® benchmarking service allows Saint Francis to see how it compares to other hospitals on numerous surgical quality outcomes. “These data are risk-adjusted and based on evidence,” says Ellner. “It is something that you know has been audited and is very accurate.”
Saint Francis focuses surgical improvement efforts on high-risk procedures, such as colon surgery. “There is a lot of variability in colon surgery, and we have benchmark data that helps us demonstrate this,” says Ellner. “We are working with stakeholders to standardize how colon surgery patients are prepared for surgery.” For example, Saint Francis now requires that an antibiotic be prescribed to all patients prior to colon surgery. In addition, as part of the preoperative preparation, patients are counseled to stop smoking, start a walking program, and work with a dietitian to improve their nutritional status. Steps are also taken during colon surgery to limit infections. For instance, all of the surgeons are provided a new set of gowns, gloves, and sterile instruments toward the end of the surgery before closing the abdomen. This prevents the spread of contamination from the earlier part of the surgery when the colon was handled. “As you limit unnecessary variation, you can minimize adverse events,” says Ellner. “After six months of implementing standardized approaches, we are seeing an improvement in our raw data showing a decrease in surgical site infections.”
To avoid resistance to a surgical quality program, recruit core supporters on the surgical quality team (including physician and nurse champions), and then reach out to stakeholders who may be resistant to your goals. “Don’t minimize the importance of this step,” says Ellner. “Often, individuals who have the greatest chance of affecting change are the hardest to engage. For example, be mindful of those individuals who are already working on their own quality projects and may be threatened by a competing initiative. You need time to break down barriers to bring them into the fold,” says Ellner. Building alliances also requires understanding the needs of hospital staff members who have divergent interests and perspectives. “Tensions can run strong and health care is a high-risk environment. You have to create an environment where you get people to listen actively to each other. One way to do that is through safe conversations, which are discussions designed to ensure that all opinions are considered carefully and treated respectfully,” Ellner says. For example, an anesthesiologist and a surgeon, who by nature of their training have different perspectives on the surgical process, may disagree whether a patient should receive local anesthesia or go under general anesthesia. Through safe conversations, these healthcare professionals can come to a consensus that satisfies both of their desires to deliver the best possible care to the patient. (See article sidebar for more ideas on involving physicians in quality improvement.)
Recognizing everyone’s opinions and perspectives is a practice that is modeled from the top down at Saint Francis. “Our CEO is willing to listen to everyone in our organization, no matter what their role in the delivery of care,” Ellner says.
Ellner also recommends involving finance in clinical improvement initiatives. “Our CFO is very involved in our quality committee, and he has looked at our costs for patients who have suffered adverse events,” says Ellner. “With his assistance, we’ve demonstrated that, when we avoid certain complications, we have shorter lengths of stays or our expenses are more in line with Medicare reimbursement.” For example, during its UTI initiative, Saint Francis performed an activity-based cost analysis. The CFO and I reviewed the hospital’s 72 UTI cases over a four-year period. Forty-one of these cases occurred among inpatients and resulted in five deaths and an average additional cost per case of more than $52,000. The 33 outpatient UTIs cost an additional $758 per patient and resulted in two readmissions and four emergency department visits. In another example, as part of its goal to improve colon surgery outcomes, St. Francis invited its revenue cycle and supply chain staff members to observe surgeries to better understand the needs of the OR teams and identify opportunities to minimize waste. “I spent time with our CFO analyzing line item costs for several surgical cases,” says Ellner. “It became evident that, by reducing variation in surgery, we could save close to $5,000 per case by switching to less costly instruments and maintaining or improving outcomes. We perform approximately 1,000 colorectal cases annually, so the cost savings is substantial.”
St. Francis asks patients to provide their perspectives on how the hospital can improve care. This patient may have had a good or bad surgical experience in the hospital. “Either way, a patient will tell you how it really feels to have surgery in your hospital. When you have a patient who can keep you honest, it opens up opportunities that you didn’t see before,” says Ellner. Patient representatives are encouraged to discuss their experiences in private or in groups. For example, a guest speaker shared her tragic experience of losing her 15-year-old son after an elective surgery done at another hospital. “She shared her story with St. Francis staff so we could learn from previous mistakes. This was a powerful opportunity to openly discuss medical errors and how to work with our patients to avoid them,” Ellner says.
By 2015, quality healthcare won’t be an option, says Ellner, because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’s) rules for value-based health care will be in full swing. “In the future, hospital and health systems will be reimbursed based on quality outcomes,” Ellner says. “Ignoring quality improvement will translate into a loss of revenue from lost Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.”
Betty Hintch is editor, newsletters and forums, at HFMA (firstname.lastname@example.org). Interviewed for this article: Scott J. Ellner, DO, MPH, FACS, vice chairman of surgery and director of surgical quality at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Hartford, Conn. (email@example.com).
ClearBalance: Boosting Patient Payment through Consumer-Friendly Loan Programs
In this Business Profile, Bruce Haupt, president and CEO of ClearBalance, discusses how a patient loan program can increase patient collections, reduce bad debt, and speed cash flow.
6 Patient Revenue Cycle Metrics You Should Be Tracking (and How to Improve Your Results)
Patient financial engagement is more challenging than ever – and more critical. With patient responsibility as a percentage of revenue on the rise, providers have seen their billing-related costs and accounts receivable levels increase. If increasing collection yield and reducing costs are a priority for your organization, the metrics outlined in this presentation will provide the framework you need to understand what’s working and what’s not, in order to guide your overall patient financial engagement initiatives and optimize results.
Deloitte Consulting LLP: Employing Innovative Solutions to Optimize Revenue Cycle Performance
In this Business Profile, Jerry Bruno, principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, discusses the importance of choosing revenue cycle solutions that help an organization meet the challenges of a quickly evolving healthcare environment.
10 Ways to Reduce Patient Statement Volume (and Reduce Costs)
No two patients are the same. Each has a very personal healthcare experience, and each has distinct financial needs and preferences that have an impact on how, when and if they chose to pay their healthcare bill. It’s no longer effective to apply static billing techniques to solve the complex challenge of collecting balances from patients. The need to tailor financial conversations and payment options to individual needs and preferences is critical. This presentation provides 10 recommendations that will not only help you improve payment performance through a more tailored approach, but take control of rising collection costs.
Grant Thornton LLP: Maintaining and Improving Collections During an EMR Implementation
In this business profile, Lane Jackson, a partner in the Grant Thornton LLP Health Care Advisory Services practice, with extensive experience in overseeing system implementations and revenue cycle reorganizations, discusses best practices for elevating revenue cycle performance during an EMR implementation. Grant Thornton LLP is a sponsor of the Large System Controllers Council Affinity Group.
Reduce Patient Balances Sent to Collection Agencies: Approaching New Problems with New Approaches
This white paper, written by Apex Vice President of Solutions and Services, Carrie Romandine, discusses the importance of patient segmentation and messaging specifically related to the patient revenue cycle. Applying strategic messaging that is tailored to each patient type will not only better educate consumers on payment options specific to their billing needs, but it will maximize the amount collected before sending to collections. Further, targeted messaging should be applied across all points of patient interaction (i.e. point of service, customer service, patient statements) and analyzed regularly for maximized results.
KeyBank: Offering Expertise in Tax-Exempt Financing to Give Health Systems Flexible Options for Growth
In this business profile, Amy Gross, senior vice president of Key Government Finance, discusses the benefits of private placement transactions to support large-scale financing projects.
The Future of Online Patient Billing Portals
This white paper, written by Apex President Patrick Maurer, discusses methods to increase patient adoption of online payments. Providers are now seeking ways to incrementally collect more payments due from patients as well as speeding up the rate of collections. This white paper shows why patient-centric approaches to online payment portals are important complements to traditional provider-centric approaches.
Xtend Healthcare: Enabling Efficient Business Office Workflow
In this business profile, Doug Polasky, executive vice president at Xtend Healthcare, explains the importance of having sound workflow processes in a consolidated business office to ensure optimal performance and reduce costs.
Payment Portals Can Improve Self-Pay Collections and Support Meaningful Use
Increased electronic engagement between healthcare providers and patients provides significant opportunities for improving revenue cycle metrics and encouraging patients to access EHRs. This article, written by Apex Founder and CEO Brian Kueppers, explores a number of strategies to create synergy between patient billing, online payment portals and electronic health record (EHR) software to realize a high ROI in speed to payment, patient satisfaction and portal adoption for meaningful use.
SSI: Bringing Patient Access to the Next Level
In this business profile, sponsored by SSI, Jay Colfer, vice president of sales and marketing, shares how patient access solutions are reversing the trend toward increased bad debt resulting from the rise in high-deductible consumer health plans.
Large Health System Drives 10% UP (Patient Payments) and 10% DOWN (Billing-related Costs)
Faced with a rising tide of bad debt, a large Southeastern healthcare system was seeing a sharp decline in net patient revenues. The need to improve collections was dire. By integrating critical tools and processes, the health system was able to increase online payments and improve its financial position. Taking a holistic approach increased overall collection yield by 10% while costs came down because the number of statements sent to patients fell by 10%, which equated to a $1.3M annualized improvement in patient cash over a six-month period. This case study explains how.
Deloitte: Helping Organizations Elevate the Healthcare Consumer Experience
In this business profile of Deloitte Consulting, Matthew Hitch and David Betts explore the potential benefits of elevating the customer experience and outline strategies to change service delivery.
ICD-10: Managing Performance
With the ICD10 deadline quickly approaching and daily responsibilities not slowing down, final preparations for October 1 require strategic prioritization and laser focus.
TriMedx: Elevating and Streamlining Clinical Engineering
TriMedx helps health systems control costs and uncover savings opportunities by optimizing the clinical engineering function.
Clarity Drives Collections
Read how Gwinnett Medical Center provides clear connections to financial information, offers multiple payment options for patients, and gives onsite staff the ability to collect payments at multiple points throughout the care process.
McKesson: Leveraging Predictive Analytics to Rein in Operating Costs
A leader from McKesson discusses how healthcare reform is forcing hospitals and health systems to take a different approach to capacity management and patient flow.
Orlando Health Gains Insight into Denials, Reduces A/R Days with RelayAnalytics Acuity
Read how Orlando Health was able to perform deeper dives into claims data to help the health system see claim rejections more quickly–even on the front end–and reduce A/R days.
Revenue Cycle Payment Clarity
To maintain fiscal fitness and boost patient satisfaction and loyalty, healthcare providers need visibility into when and how much they will be paid–by whom–and the ability to better navigate obstacles to payment. They need payment clarity. This whitepaper illuminates this concept that is winning fans at forward-thinking hospitals.
Streamlining the Patient Billing Process
Financial services staff are always looking for ways to improve the verification, billing and collections processes, and Munson Healthcare is no different. Read about how they streamlined the billing process to produce cleaner bills on the front end and helped financial services staff collect more than $1 million in additional upfront annual revenue in one year.
Wallace Thomson Hospital Automates to Maximize Limited Resources
Effective revenue cycle management can be a challenge for any hospital, but for smaller providers it is even tougher. Read how Wallace Thomson identified unreimbursed procedures, streamlined claims management, and improved its ability to determine charity eligibility.
7 Steps for Building and Funding Sustainability Projects
Before launching an energy-efficiency initiative, it’s important to build a solid business case and understand the funding options and potential incentives that are available. Healthcare leaders should consider taking the steps outlined in the whitepaper to ease the process of gaining approval, piloting, implementing, and supporting sustainability projects. You will find that investing in sustainability and energy efficiency helps hospitals add cash to their bottom line. Discover how hospitals and health systems have various options for funding energy-efficient and renewable-energy initiatives, depending on their current financial structure and strategy.
Key Capital Considerations for Mergers and Acquisitions
Health care is a dynamic mergers and acquisitions market with numerous hospitals and health systems contemplating or pursuing formal arrangements with other entities. These relationships often pose a strategic benefit, such as enhancing competencies across the continuum, facilitating economies of scale, or giving the participants a competitive advantage in a crowded market. Underpinning any profitable acquisition is a robust capital planning strategy that ensures an organization reserves sufficient funds and efficiently onboards partners that advance the enterprise mission and values.
Key Capital Considerations for Mergers and Acquisitions
The success of healthcare mergers, acquisitions, and other affiliations is predicated in part on available capital, and the need for and sources of funding are considerations present throughout the partnering process, from choosing a partner to evaluating an arrangement’s capital needs to selecting an integration model to finding the right money source to finance the deal. This whitepaper offers several strategies that health system leaders have used to assess and manage capital needs for their growing networks.
Trend Watch: Providers adapt as value-based care moves from hype to reality
Announcements from several commercial payers and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) early in 2015 around increased efforts to form value-based contracts with providers seemed to point to an impending rise in risk-based contracting. Rather than wait for disruption from the outside in, health care providers are now making inroads on collaborating with payers on various risk-based contracting models to increase the value of health care from within.
Yuma Regional Medical Center case study
Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC) is a not-for-profit hospital serving a population of roughly 200,000 in Yuma and the surrounding communities.
Before becoming a ZirMed client, Yuma was attempting to manually monitor hundreds of thousands of charges which led to significant charge capture leakage. Learn how Yuma & ZirMed worked together to address underlying collections issues at the front end, thus increasing Yuma’s overall bottom line.
Reforming with a New 50-Bed Acute Care Facility
Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services works with partners to audit the market and the facility’s role in that market to identify opportunities for improvement. This approach leads to successes; Kindred’s clinical rehab and management expertise complements our partners’ strengths. Every facility and challenge is unique, and requires a full objective analysis.
5-Minute Briefing on Revenue Integrity Through HIM WhitePaper Hospitals FS
As the critical link between patient care and reimbursement, health information enables more complete and accurate revenue capture. This 5-Minute White Paper Briefing shares how to achieve cost-effective revenue integrity by your optimizing HIM systems.
5-Minute Briefing on Accelerating Cash Flow Through HIM WhitePaper Hospitals FS
Speedier cash flow starts with better CDI and coding. This 5-Minute White Paper Briefing explains how providers can improve vital measures of technical and business performance to accelerate cash flow.
5-Minute Briefing on Reducing the Cost of RCM WhitePaper Hospitals FS
Qualified coders are getting harder to come by, and even the most seasoned professional can struggle with the complexity of ICD-10. This 5-Minute White Paper Briefing explains how partnerships can help improve coding and other key RCM operations potentially at a cost savings.
Providers Focus Too Much On Revenue Cycle Management
The point of managing your revenue cycle isn’t just to improve revenue and cash flow. It’s to do those things effectively by consistently following best practices— while spending as little time, money, and energy on them as possible.
Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford Case Study
How Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford increased payments received within 45 days by 20% and reduced paper submission claims by 70% by using ZirMed solutions.
Using Predictive Modeling To Detect Meaningful Correlations Across Claims Denials Data
The reasons claims are denied are so varied that managing denials can feel like chasing a thousand different tails. This situation is not surprising given that a hypothetical denial rate of just 5 percent translates to tens of thousands of denied claims per year for large hospitals—where real‐world denial rates often range from 12 to 22 percent. Read about how predictive modeling can detect meaningful correlations across claims denials data.
ZOLL and Emergency Mobile Health Care Case Study
Emergency Mobile Health Care (EMHC) was founded to be and remains an exclusively locally owned and operated emergency medical service organization; today EMHC serves a population of more than a million people in and around Memphis, answering 75,000 calls each year.
Maximizing Medicare Reimbursements White Paper
Since the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI) introduction, CMS has paid more than $100 million in bonus payments to participants. However, these bonuses ended in 2015; providers who successfully meet the reporting requirements in 2016 will avoid the 2% negative payment adjustment in 2018, so now is the time to act! Included in this whitepaper are implications of increasing patient responsibility, collections best practices, and collections and internal control solutions.
Denials Deconstructed: Getting Your Claims Paid
Getting paid what your physician deserves—that’s the goal of every biller. Yet even for the best billers, achieving that success can be elusive when denials stand in the way of success, presenting challenges at every turn. Denials aren’t going away, but you can learn techniques to manage and even prevent them.Join practice management expert Elizabeth W. Woodcock, MBA, FACMPE, CPC, to: Discover methods to translate denial data into business intelligence to improve your bottom line, determine staff productivity benchmarks for billers, and recognize common mistakes in denial management.
Improving Care Delivery: Coordination and Partnership Across Settings
From payment incentives to value-based purchasing penalties, the national focus in healthcare is on improving patient care and lowering costs. Coordinating care for patients as they move from one care setting to another can help meet these goals, but the greatest success will come when the patients healthcare providers work together. By enhancing a team approach to care and providing cost efficiencies, partnerships between acute and post-acute settings benefit patients and the healthcare providers taking care of those patients.