Remember “You Got Mail?” No, not the movie, but the dial-up internet service tagline adopted by the rom-com blockbuster.
The squeal and screech of a 56k serial modem connecting brings to the surface nostalgia of internet days past. That is, if you happen to be among the majority living in areas where high-speed internet access is a given.
Like a gaping hole in a fiber internet coverage map, a dark cloud of innovative healthcare services obscurity hovers over many of those living in rural America. There are a number of reasons the most relevant and effective healthcare services—those readily available in urban centers—are missing from the rural landscape. Decreasing populations and payer problems only scratch at the surface of this scarcity.
Often disproportionate healthcare services lead to added financial burdens for rural providers. In many cases those burdens are lead causes for rural and community hospital closures. It also doesn’t help that current healthcare models seem to work against the rural sector.
“The reason we're seeing so many of [rural] hospitals shutter their doors is because Congress is taking away their reimbursement payments,” states Maggie Elehwany, the Vice President of Government Affairs and Policy at the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). “A lot of larger hospitals can absorb these cuts. Smaller rural hospitals cannot.”
Without a shift in payment models or new policies designed to sustain rural healthcare, the aforementioned large corporate hospital systems may find themselves well-poised to help their small community focused counterparts through integrated health services.
A recent study from Navigant pointed to a widening chasm between urban and rural healthcare facilities. The same study suggested collaboration between larger healthcare systems and rural hospitals as a viable solution to bridging that gap.
Corporate hospitals and healthcare organizations can benefit from community hospital acquisitions and affiliations in a variety of ways. In most cases the perks to partnership are passed onto the smaller hospital as well as the patient populations they serve.
Multi-entity hospitals are able to work with smaller hospitals and help drive patients to their urban centers where patients can receive certain care they need. An article from HealthLeaders explains that in addition, partnering with a community hospital can give the corporate facility access to a potential new source of patients for clinical trials and highly specialized services.
On the other end, such healthcare system integrations allow the community hospital to tailor their care services to focus on their core strengths. In this instance a community hospital can reduce the possibility of overextending services, remain relevant for their community, and reduce costs.
“When we see this type of consolidation it is less about expanding your footprint and more about knowing who you can serve and being able to provide those people with the best care possible in their communities,” says Holly Evans, MEDHOST Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Corporate Sales.
Connecting corporate advantages to the community setting can help each facility accomplish good for both patients and their business,however, building an effective bridge does not come without challenges.
Partnerships between corporate and community hospitals take many forms and often include multiple variables. Whether through affiliations or acquisitions, there are several keys to reducing transitional headaches when a corporate hospital brings a community facility into the fold.
Many of the challenges that come into play concern hospital finance management, healthcare technologies, and people.
“Change is hard for nurses and clinicians who have been doing things a certain way for years,” says MEDHOST Director of National Accounts, Richard Crook. “During a transition to the corporate way of doing things, at the community side their muscle memory and training is being disrupted.”
Crook added that while the smaller hospital is getting all the benefits that come with being part of a bigger group, things need to be done in a way that maintains their financial sustainability.
When managing a transition, whether solo or by working with an integrated healthcare management partner, corporate hospitals should keep the following tips and aspects at the forefront during every stage of the process.
Agility – Prior to transition, a corporate entity will want to host discovery meetings with the smaller hospital to verify all parties are on the same page. This also includes a willingness and ability to make custom operational adjustments based on both facilities’ needs.
Consolidation Plan – One byproduct of a discovery meeting should be a consolidation framework. This outline provides a roadmap that should guide the transition. A plan with a standardized rollout should outline essentials like time, costs, and potential barriers.
Scalability – Make sure all elements of the transition make sense for both hospitals’ business models and line up with expectations. If things change, both parties need to have the ability to quickly formulate an alternative plan of attack.
Reporting – Providing high visibility into the process with side-by-side analytics and metrics can help reduce transitional surprises.
Support – Define managers, whether internal or through a corporate consolidation partner. This team should have an intimate knowledge of the process at every stage and makes sure that things are being done according to plan.
A hospital is an intricate ecosystem with hundreds of moving parts. Electronic health record (EHR) systems, medical billing processes, emergency department workflows, business office registration; that is a lot to manage in one transition. In many cases corporate entities and their hospitals do not have the internal bandwidth, expertise, or resources to oversee every aspect of a community hospital’s back-end operations. Responsibilities like IT maintenance and revenue cycle functions that are essential foundations for the patients they serve take up a lot of time and assets.
For emerging multi-facility systems or those still growing, MEDHOST offers a wide range of healthcare system implementation and migration solutions to help manage the process with efficiency. With experience in both rural and corporate healthcare settings, we understand the unique needs of each party and can help add the needed scalability. Informed by comprehensive reporting, our account management and implementations teams work round-the-clock to make sure whatever the agreement, the partnership accomplishes what it set out to do.
Connecting the rural population to the advantages of an urban healthcare setting is a challenge, but with the right approach and partnerships it can be accomplished with the efficiency of fiber optics.
To find out more about MEDHOST’s corporate healthcare consolidation services email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1.800.383.6278 to speak with a specialist.