Leadership Priorities for Healthcare Reform Survival

Wayne Sensor, for HealthLeaders Media, February 4, 2011

Throughout my career as a hospital executive, I've shared my belief that the transformation of our industry should actively embrace information technologies and process improvement methodologies to improving the quality of care and escalating cost. Since departing my last position, I have had the opportunity to remain engaged in a variety of provider environments without having to worry about day-to-day operational responsibilities. This distance has allowed me to watch the events of the past two years and put them into perspective about where hospital leaders should focus their priorities as reform (including both the HITECH Act and PPACA) is implemented. More than ever, I believe achieving total hospital efficiency is imperative to financial and operational performance in a reform environment.

Signed into law only 14 months apart, these two pieces of legislation represent the commencement of the most significant period of change hospitals may ever see. Together they create an environment that will force healthcare executives and system leaders to transform operations more quickly across more fronts than ever before. Throughout these changes, leaders will be called on to sustain financial performance while dealing with the continuing effects of the Great Recession, which negatively impacted reimbursements and dramatically altered the bond markets. 

To meet these challenges successfully, hospital executives must commit themselves to achieving a new level of hospital efficiency and quality performance. The successful approach will require the use of real-time logistics technology in conjunction with process improvement methodologies to create value across the entire enterprise. Too often, past efforts have focused on optimizing departments or single access points such as emergency departments at the expense of other functions. That silo-based mindset will no longer work as reform introduces new patients and new care and payment modalities.

It is also clear that a larger volume of newly insured patients will begin to access care at various points throughout the healthcare delivery continuum. This includes the emergency room, walk-in and urgent care centers, and primary and specialty care physician offices. In the end, more insured patients combined with an aging population assure that increased numbers of patients will be moving through the healthcare system. This increased census will strain a hospitals' ability to handle patient throughput unless total hospital efficiency becomes a priority.

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