Hospital's 'What If' Scenario Becomes Reality

HealthLeaders Media Staff, June 23, 2009

The patient access team at Skagit Valley Hospital has many goals as it works through this economic recession: Sustain morale, maintain trust, minimize criticism, and acknowledge success.

Michele Hill, CHAM, patient access manager at the Mount Vernon, WA, facility, knows it's not easy considering what the hospital faces:

  • Federal and state budget cuts
  • Change in payer mix
  • Increased charity care requests
  • RAC audits

"Our facility, like many others, is facing significant challenges during this time of economic downturn," Hill says.

To cope, leaders at Skagit Valley asked managers like Hill to provide a 5% and 10% reduction plan. Originally, it was a "what-if" scenario. Economic woes, however, made it a reality, and Hill and other managers were forced to trim 5%.

So she went to work in several key areas:

  • Reduced monthly staff meetings to quarterly and implemented a newsletter to keep staff up-to-date

  • Identified a less expensive, yet more user-friendly patient armband that has reduced the use of the expensive armband/label sheets; this resulted in a $10,000 annual savings

  • Eliminated printing duplication in ED that results in significant paper and toner expenses

  • Deployed staff to the shifts that have greater volumes, while saving on shift differentials and increasing productivity

  • Eliminated all travel for 2009

  • Centralized patient access services throughout the organization to provide a highly trained and efficient team that can be deployed to any area for support

"Other processes have been evaluated," Hill says, "and utilizing lean methods, we have found many ways to reduce waste that while not in the hundreds of thousands of dollar savings, are adding up to make a significant difference."


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