Hospitals have faced immense challenges since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat the spread of the disease, follow social distancing guidelines, and accommodate incoming COVID patients, many outpatient facilities were shut down and elective procedures were postponed or canceled for months. One study showed that inpatient and outpatient volume have declined by 19.5 percent and 34.5 percent respectively. Since 30 percent of the revenue hospitals make is due to elective procedures, this shutdown has financially hit hospitals hard. Hospitals have also had to put funds toward increasing the number of staff on-site, paying for overtime, obtaining personal protective equipment, and buying ventilators and other necessary equipment. These combined factors have put the healthcare system in jeopardy. The American Hospital Association estimates that hospitals lost at least $323.1 billion by the end of 2020.
The losses sustained by the healthcare industry this past year are a stark contrast to the growth that had been seen. According to Guidehouse’s 2018 analysis, although health system operating margins were still 30 percent below that of 2015, there were signs of improvement. Operating margins increased by 13 percent in 2018 after a decline in the years from 2015-2017. Operating margins in 2019 increased by 7.4 percent compared to 2018, despite a rise in expenses and lower patient volumes. These increases were due to an increase in revenue and hospitals being more conscientious about cutting costs. Other related factors that may have contributed to improvements seen in recent years include a steady economy and a high employment rate. In support of this idea, an analysis of revenue trends following the 2008 recession showed that operating margins declined in 2008 but recovered by 2011.
A major concern for the healthcare system is how it will be able to bounce back quickly. Modern technological tools can be used to help improve hospital finance performance by controlling costs, improving efficiency, and increasing patient retention. One way in which hospitals can ensure that patients continue to return to their facility is by caring about patient satisfaction. A hospital’s revenue depends on recurring patients and bringing in new patients, typically through word of mouth. A patient that is lost due to dissatisfaction can cost a facility up to $200,000; therefore, it is critical to listen to patients and support patient needs.
A survey that assessed what patients valued most in a healthcare facility indicated that communication is key. The survey showed that patient satisfaction was most highly related to care providers’ ability to explain procedures and treatments and listen to patient concerns. Appointments with patients are often short and can lead to miscommunication between medical staff and the patient because there is not enough time to address the patient’s questions or discuss follow-up care in depth. Another study showed that 33 percent of patients want more communication with their healthcare provider, while 59 percent of physicians want more time with patients. This issue of lack of communication can be solved through mobile technologies that allow for real-time text messaging between the patient and provider. The provider can send written instructions to the patient and promptly respond to any concerns. Improved communication between patient and provider is a sure way to increase satisfaction, reduce patient readmission rates, improve patient health outcomes, and boost health system profitability.
Fast response times from healthcare providers were also found to be important to patients. During the course of a hospital stay, patients may be under the care of multiple healthcare professionals with different specialties. It is critical for all members of the team to stay informed and be readily available in case their expertise is needed. To facilitate the ability to quickly track down care team members and obtain input from them in critical moments, mobile systems can be employed. Using these technologies allows healthcare providers to communicate and collaborate with team members in real-time and prevent delays in care.
Other methods that can increase efficiency, boost patient satisfaction, and improve profitability in your health system include being able to integrate lab reports, requests, and other pertinent patient data into one system. Electronic health record (EHR) integration allows for the ability to do just that, facilitating the retrieval of information quickly, so there is less wait time for the patient while a physician gathers these records. Implementation of an EHR integrated with a clinical collaboration platform has the ability to improve patient satisfaction by 10-15 percent.
Further, using automated systems to request labs and tests can save time and money. Written prescription or test orders may get lost and take a longer time to be filled. Sometimes this results in duplicate orders being requested, which can cost more money for the hospital. Electronic prescribing systems can decrease the number of lost orders and speed up the time in which an order request can be filled. In some cases, these systems can even detect drug interactions, which can help reduce error and save patient lives. The ability for tests and labs to be ordered electronically can increase patient satisfaction by 8-11 percent.
There are a number of ways in which hospitals can increase their revenue, but one thing they all have in common is that they tie back to pleasing the patient, and a top way to do that is to improve communication and collaboration. A happy customer goes a long way when it comes to recommending a healthcare organization. TigerConnect can provide you with the technologies needed to achieve better communication and optimal efficiency, which can ultimately result in higher patient satisfaction and higher revenue. See what TigerConnect can do for you.
Your Guide to Preserving Profitability with Improved Communication
Tags: Hospital Revenue