Tag: cost transformation

Survey: Cost Transformation Is Imperative, But Hospital Efforts Lag Behind

Fewer than one-in-five healthcare executives has seen cost reductions of more than 5 percent in any priority area in the last year. This is one of many concerning findings in Kaufman Hall’s new 2018 State of Cost Transformation in U.S. Hospitals and Health Systems: Time for Big Steps report.

The report is Kaufman Hall’s second annual in-depth look at the priorities and progress healthcare executives are making in reducing organizational costs. The 2018 report shows that hospitals will need to take big strides and tackle more transformative initiatives. Progress is being made on some fronts, but it is slower than what many experts consider to be required of hospitals and health systems.

Increasing leadership accountability

Evidence of progress can be found in the following:

“U.S. hospitals are facing increasing pressures, so these percentages need to be much, much higher,” said Lance Robinson, managing director at Kaufman Hall. “The combined effect of the shift to a new business model, competitive pressures from expanding health systems, new retail options that are siphoning off high-margin services, and the need to raise capital for strategic growth initiatives is quickly putting hospitals in an untenable position.

“Our hope is that this new report helps healthcare executives see where they stand in relation to their peers — and that progress needs to be made in most organizations,” he added. “We also hope it provides actionable insights to help them accelerate their cost transformation efforts by tackling initiatives such as eliminating, repurposing, or redesigning capital-intensive, inefficient structures, programs, and processes.”

Cost reduction still focused on traditional targets

Among the key findings is that most of the cost transformation that has occurred so far has been in traditional cost reduction areas such as supply chain and other non-labor costs, where 64 percent of executives reported a reduction of three percent or more since 2017. Little progress has been made, however, in areas with the greatest potential for transforming cost structure, such as service rationalization, where 61 percent reported no progress in the past year, or reduction of inappropriate clinical variation (46 percent).

The numbers skewed even higher for organizations with more than 10 hospitals, with 60 percent reporting no progress in reducing inappropriate clinical variation, and 57 percent saying no progress has been made in improving physician enterprise management (versus 44 percent overall).

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Reflecting on Lessons from the Past to Predict and Improve the Future of the Healthcare Industry

Guest post by Bret Schroeder, healthcare expert, PA Consulting Group.

Bret Schroeder
Bret Schroeder

Everybody knows that the US healthcare system is in trouble. Issues ranging from cost, to quality and access of care are rampant and only getting worse. On a macro level The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has solved some of the previous access issues, but has added tremendous cost within the system, and at the same time it has not solved the quality issues that exists.

Research suggests that the cost situation is becoming increasingly worse, which is causing firms to scramble for viability. Waves of cost cutting efforts have led payers and providers to capture some, but not nearly enough of the costs necessary for long-term survival.

There are two main cost challenges that both healthcare payers and providers share:

  1. Wildly inefficient operating models and processes. The Harvard School of Public Health projects that of the $2.8 trillion the US spends on healthcare each year, 30 percent or $840 billion may be wasted. For organizations that function on small operating margins, this alone represents the boundary between success and failure.
  2. Large stranded infrastructure and costs combined with declining revenues – The ratio of hospital expense vs. revenue has increased from just under 15 percent in 2011 to nearly 30 percent in 2014 with 25 percent of hospitals reporting an operating loss. For nearly 49 million enrollees in Medicare, hospitals receive only 88 cents for every dollar with lower reimbursement rates predicted in the future.

These pressures have led organizations to make hasty decisions about how to fundamentally solve the problem.  Merger and acquisition activity among both payers and providers is at an all-time high, and the ACA appears to have been the catalyst for this M&A activity. Since its enactment, hospitals started merging with competitors at unprecedented rates. In 2009, pre-ACA, there were 52 announced transactions involving 80 hospitals. That number more than doubled by 2012, with 107 announced transactions involving 244 hospitals.  The M&A frenzy among healthcare payers has also increased with Anthem’s announcement to acquire Cigna, and Aetna’s acquisition of Humana. Both of these were announced last year and are two of the largest payer M&A deals in history.

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