Who Wants an Empty Hospital?

Philip Betbeze, 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?"

Philip Betbeze

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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