Rob Shelton, director of marketing and communications at SSM Health Care, says the St. Louis–based health system is part of the industry-wide transition into the outpatient setting for several service lines, including imaging, pain management, ambulatory surgery, and urgent care.
"The system is forcing us to move to an ambulatory environment. Medicare and other payers don't want to pay for inpatient stays. For the first time in SSM's history the scales have tipped and more of our business is actually on the outpatient side than on the inpatient side," Shelton says. SSM operates 18 hospitals and 150 outpatient sites across four states.
The shift towards outpatient settings may have been accelerated by the recession, which brought with it higher unemployment and reduced the number of insured people in the marketplace, the Moody's report says. At the same time, elective procedures have dropped owing to the economic uncertainty and because insurance plans have raised copays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses for patients.
SSM views the shift as "the future of healthcare: services delivered in more of an outpatient ambulatory setting and meeting the needs of our patients," Shelton says. '"When you look at it from a revenue perspective and a volume perspective, we are actually seeing more, and that is across the board on outpatient, and that includes a wealth of different services."