Skip to main content

Analysis

Achieve Standardization, Scale, and Alignment Through Service Lines

By Christopher Cheney  
   July 09, 2019

A recent HealthLeaders Roundtable event explored the multiple benefits that can be garnered from establishing service lines.

Editor's note: This article is based on a roundtable discussion report sponsored by Vizient Inc. The full report is available as a free download.

Service lines allow health systems and hospital leaders to improve the performance of key clinical services such as cardiac and vascular care, orthopedics, and oncological care. The highlights of this recent HealthLeaders Roundtable included three key drivers of service lines gains.

1. Standardization: Service lines can play a pivotal role in reducing clinical care variation and boosting efficiency.

Roundtable panelist Gregory Kasper, MD, who is president of ProMedica's Jobst Vascular Institute in Toledo, Ohio, said the institute launched standardization processes initially as a cost management tool.

"We know that reduced variability improves quality and reduces costs. Surgical trays provide a surprisingly simple opportunity. By collaborating with the surgical staff and surgeons, we were able to reduce the number of our surgical trays for the vascular service by 30% and the number of instruments per tray by an additional 30%. This had a pretty dramatic impact on the efficiency of our central supply department," he said.

2. Scale: Service lines can help health systems and hospitals achieve economies of scale.

Roundtable panelist Jerome Granato, MD, who is system vice president for cardiology service lines at Englewood, Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, said establishing economies of scale through service lines can foster vendor competition.

"We have developed a transparent process that enables physicians to evaluate vendors and products in an objective and numerically quantifiable manner. With this process, we have limited the vendors we use for high-price items, resulting in significant financial savings. You really can't go to a single vendor; you always need to have another vendor in case there's a back order. But we've gone to dual vendors, and that's been a huge savings," he said.

3. Alignment: Establishing effective and efficient service lines can improve alignment between health systems and their physicians, Granato said.

"Alignment comes from relationships and trust, and relationships and trust cannot be developed by email or by telephone. We try very hard to make sure that even though we're in multiple states, that we periodically bring our clinical stakeholders together for in-person meetings. When we have special projects like catheter bleeding, I will put together a taskforce, and we will fly into Chicago. Everyone will be there by 10 in the morning from almost any place in America. We will meet at an airport hotel until 4 in the afternoon, then everybody will be home by midnight. Having that personal connectivity is the key ingredient for building the confidence and trust that's essential to alignment."

View the complete HealthLeaders Roundtable report: Strategies for Operating Hospital Service Lines Effectively and Efficiently.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Service lines allow health systems and hospital leaders to improve the performance of key clinical services such as oncology care.

Standardization gains from service lines reduce clinical care variation and boost efficiency.

Service lines can help health systems and hospitals achieve economies of scale.


Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.