How One Community Hospital Turned a Federal Requirement into Significant Cost Savings

A discussion about patient flow often focused on meeting The Joint Commission’s standards. Even though that’s an important part of the conversation, it’s only one of several benefits for improving operational efficiency.

We all know why the issue is on our collective radars. In 2005, The Joint Commission set standards to “prevent crowding and boarding of patients in the emergency department (ED) and in other temporary locations.” After an amendment in 2013, a mandated compliance deadline was set for January 1, 2014, requiring hospitals to manage the boarding of ED and to address the risk for behavioral health emergencies.

At first glance, these standards appear to be more resource-taxing requirements that facilities must meet, but there’s definitely a silver lining. Through effective implementation of patient flow programs, hospitals are especially, discovering a positive impact on admissions and length-of-stay (LOS), leading to significant financial and operational benefits.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH) is especially a great example. The 197-bed community hospital in South Carolina began a comprehensive patient flow program during the fall of 2013 after receiving a citation from The Joint Commission.

For BMH, success meant root-level process improvement and, in many ways, an organizational culture change.

“Our goal was to improve patient care and quality outcomes,” Ricks said, “but cost containment is a big component of that.”

Six months later, streamlined patient flow has produced three critical outcomes for BMH:

  1. Maximized revenue: More efficient throughput delivered $500,000 in cost savings
  2. Length-of-stay: Reduced from 4.5 days to 4 days
  3. Regulatory compliance: Achieved Joint Commission’s requirements

The results provided a much-needed boost to the hospital’s financial health outlook. “That’s a big deal for us,” Ricks said. “It’s a real potential of bottom-line net revenue that we can gain from that half-a-day LOS reduction, based on our bed size and our volume through the organization.”

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