New strategies to reduce hospital costs look at social influences

Jan 21, 2016 | Hospital Finance Efficiency

With creating affordable, accessible health care becoming such an important public issue, more hospitals and providers are strategizing ways to contribute to the solution. At the hub of many of these ideas is reducing hospital readmission rates or stay lengths. These aspects of health care often rack up unnecessary costs for hospitals, which is why they're so frequently focused on. To more efficiently address the problem, providers are working to curb underlying social influences.

Eliezer Nussbaum, a doctor from Long Beach California and author of the novel "American Greed," recently spoke with the Huffington Post about reducing health care costs. One of the first issues he highlighted was the defensive stance many physicians feel forced into for fear of malpractice lawsuits. This attitude toward medicine, he said, often causes physicians to administer unnecessary, expensive tests or treatments to cover them in the case any sort of legal action. He said that creating a professional review board of physicians and attorneys could prevent unjustified lawsuits.

"One added side effect of reducing the practice of defensive medicine would be to shorten hospital stays — since unnecessary tests and procedures will no longer be performed — and that will further reduce health care costs as well," he explained.

Other hospitals have looked at other ways to prevent certain reasons for hospitalization to reduce costs. The University of Maryland Medical Center has a violence prevention program that works with victims of violent injuries, such as stabbing, gunshot wounds or assaults, and figures out what aspects of their lives may put them at risk of violence.

According to a recent feature by Healthcare Finance News, these types of programs exist in 30 hospitals across the United States. They follow up with patients after they are discharged from the hospital and provide support to prevent another incident. According to David Ross, a violence intervention specialist who has worked in the program for the past 10 years, the work is difficult but rewarding for many reasons—including cost-effectiveness.

Research on the University of California San Francisco's program found that the number of returning violent injury patients decreased from 16 percent to 4.5 percent. It was estimated that the program would save the hospital half a million dollars a year. At the University of Maryland, the numbers are just as promising. Research found that violent injury patients in the program were 83 percent less likely to be readmitted to the hospital for another injury, even compared to patients who hadn't been through the program.

As both Nussbaum and Ross have indicated, looking at the significance of social or economical factors in these multi-faceted health care issues have given hospitals a much deeper understanding of their costs and what they can do to provide better care.

For more information and resources for improving your hospital's financial efficiency, contact Professional Medical Services today.