What These Major Shifts Mean For The Rural Hospital
In the last few years, the way that hospitals receive reimbursement has shifted in a big way. In the past, physician payment was a fee-for-service model. Today, the focus has shifted to value-based reimbursement. For the rural hospital, maximizing reimbursement is crucial to the success of the institution.
Barriers for rural hospitals
The shift to value-based reimbursement means that improving efficiency and offering high-quality care is more important than ever. To maximize compensation, rural hospitals need to work even harder to keep up with regulations. In these small hospitals, the staff is often leaner, which can make staying on top of policy even more challenging. Additionally, quality results often get skewed at community hospitals due to the lower volume of patients. In a pile of 10 patient experience evaluations, just 1 negative review can significantly skew the results.
For all the challenges rural hospitals face, one benefit of these institutions is often the position in the community. Because these hospitals are the community’s only access to healthcare, the institutions are often held up as a crucial, respected resource. This can lead to favorable patient impressions and higher patient experience scores.
Rural hospitals would do well to maximize telehealth resources. Using telehealth can lower overhead costs while improving outcomes and quality of care. For example, because of telemedicine, ED doctors can consult with specialists in other areas, reducing the occurrence of unnecessary transfers. E-visits can also reduce strain on healthcare providers in rural areas, where doctors often must work overtime and wear many hats.
In healthcare as a whole, operational costs continue to increase as reimbursement decreases. More and more, outsourcing in specific departments is of significant benefit to the small hospital. Some research has shown that EDs may function better when outsourcing ED management. Because these professionals specialize in ED management, these leaders do not have competing priorities. Another area where outsourcing has proven beneficial is in case management. Employing a remote case management team ensures that the ED is equipped with a point-of-contact for patients 24/7. This keeps overhead low and patient experience high.
The importance of patient surveys
With the shift to value-based reimbursement, excellent patient experience is increasingly important. One way rural hospitals can measure the patient experience is through using the HCAHPS survey. HCAHPS is the first survey to provide a national standard for collecting and sharing patient experience scores. The report evaluates all of the interactions of the patient experience, including wait times, quality of communication, and access to necessary information. The answers to these questions are crucial for rural hospitals in improving quality scores and, thus, maximizing reimbursement.
Keeping rural hospitals open is vital for small communities. With the changes in reimbursement and regulations, improving quality in rural hospitals is critical. Though this may require some rethinking, the endeavor is one that is crucial to undertake.