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Who Wants an Empty Hospital?

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, April 4, 2014

If you don't, you should. A nearly empty hospital indicates you've achieved functional integration such that your continued existence doesn't depend on the hospital at all. It depends instead on how well you take care of people to make sure they seldom, if ever, end up there.

Who wants an empty hospital?

Most everyone, apparently.

That is, except, possibly those who work in hospitals.

As the most expensive site of healthcare delivery, an array of forces to keep patients out—unless absolutely necessary—is massing. Even you, a hospital leader, they argue, should want to see your hospital as empty as possible.

An emptier hospital would mean you have achieved functional integration, such that your continued existence doesn't depend on the hospital at all. It depends instead on how well you take care of people to make sure they seldom, if ever, end up there.

Corwin Harper wants an empty hospital, at least, in theory. In fact, the Kaiser executive coined what was arguably the most popular catchphrase of the 2014 American College of Healthcare Executives Summit in Chicago last month.

"Who is happy to have an empty hospital as readmission rates and hospital admissions are going down?" asked the senior vice president/area manager for Kaiser Permanente's Central Valley Area in California, to muffled laughter. (Few hands went up). "I am," he said, with a straight face.

"I consider it a system failure from a process improvement standpoint with respect to the entire continuum of care if we have someone who gets readmitted to the hospital after being discharged. How did we fail in that this patient needed to be readmitted into the hospital?"

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2 comments on "Who Wants an Empty Hospital?"


gs (4/7/2014 at 4:25 PM)
This should mean insurance rates go down right?

pplemmons (4/4/2014 at 4:29 PM)
So it's "back to the future" and the future is managed care! Let's call it what it is and it's been around for a long time, as with Kaiser. All well and good, except for the hospital industry, which has a large target on its back. Does the hospital industry understand this? Sometimes I wonder if the AHA does, when they stand shoulder to shoulder with the Federal government in pushing "healthcare reform". And if the prevailing norm becomes managed care, soon enough we will have the problem of rationing care, which is the logical successor to managed care. Take a look at the British system. Be careful what you wish for.