This article appears in the March issue of HealthLeaders magazine.
Is the service line structure problematic or part of the solution? Service lines are the business lines of healthcare—a means of management and organization by which executives can differentiate revenue streams, boost investment and marketing for high performers, and decide what to do about the weak links.
But as fee-for-service payment fades, a singular focus on high-volume service lines will no longer be appropriate. Instead, executive and physician leaders must emphasize coordination among services and value over volume. It may be necessary to (gasp) cut volume for some procedures.
And that's just where service lines can help. As detailed in our cover story, "Rethinking the Service Line," care coordination, quality, and cost all can benefit from a service line structure. The key is to look across the entire service line portfolio rather than single out the top performers of the past. Allina Health in Minneapolis, Indiana University Health, and The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati have conducted comprehensive reviews across all their service lines, all to good effect.
But you might not find the review and restructuring process easy. Allina took four tries, succeeding only when it involved clinicians. In fact, physician involvement in service lines is the biggest challenge for healthcare organizations, according to our proprietary research. Done successfully, however, a cross-service line review can "increase the value of care and provide better outcomes and experiences for patients," says Penny Wheeler, MD, Allina's chief clinical officer. As a result, she predicts that the service lines will not only survive, "but they are representative of a structure that everyone is going to need."
Every issue of HealthLeaders magazine addresses service lines in a regular section written by Senior Editor Joe Cantlupe, who also authored the cover article. This issue's service line examination is on geriatric neurological programs, which are growing in demand as the nation's population ages.
Rounding out our special focus on service lines is this issue's Intelligence Report, drawn from a survey of the HealthLeaders Media Council, comprising 6,000-plus healthcare leaders who help us conduct targeted, statistically valid research on the important issues facing healthcare organizations today. This month's report tracks trends in the cardiology service line, which remains the leading service line for most hospitals and health systems. We find that three-quarters of executives plan to expand their cardio line, which is the same percentage that seeks a market leadership position. Look for competition ahead.
This article appears in the March 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.