4 priority strategies for hospitals of the future

Hospitals and health systems are adapting to the changing healthcare climate in "curves," or waves of strategic priorities, with one foot on the dock and the other on the boat, according to a recently released report from the American Hospital Association Committee on Performance Improvement. The report, which includes responses from hospital and health system leaders, as well as AHA groups, identifies strategies hospitals should prioritize as major initiatives in the coming decade. The top four are:

Aligning hospitals, physicians, and other providers across the care continuum: Described as a shifting paradigm from "competition to interdependency," according to the report, aligning providers across the care continuum is essential to true partnerships and care coordination. For example, during a Medicare demonstration project, Wenatchee (Wash.) Valley Medical Center held preliminary meetings with all providers and acted on their suggestions, provided shared savings incentives to group physicians, and shared data, including testimonials from patients.

Utilizing evidence-based practices to improve quality and patient safety: Quality is directly tied to reimbursement, especially as hospitals with high readmission rates will be penalized starting in 2013. Flowers Hospital in Alabama sought to improve the outcomes of heart failure and pneumonia patients with a nurse reviewer identifying high-risk patients. A multi-disciplinary team also reviewed cases that failed and modified processes accordingly. Flowers Hospital was able to achieve a more than 99 percent compliance rate with CMS core measures, tied to its financial reimbursements.
 
Improving efficiency through productivity and financial management: Hospital leaders increasingly are looking for ways to cut redundant efforts and standardize processes to cut costs and improve patient care. North Mississippi Medical Center aimed to improve patient satisfaction in the emergency department, particularly around wait times. To cut down on wait times, the hospital implemented bedside triage, allowed for X-ray viewing abilities in each patient room, and installed a computerized tracking system to increase patient flow.

Developing integrated information systems: Health IT is critical to connecting providers with information in real time, according to the report. However, it's not enough to simply own the technology; hospitals and health systems must perform sophisticated data mining and analysis for continuous improvement in patient care and for the organization. With several sources of electronic data, Piedmont Clinic in Atlanta created a single data warehouse with information on patient satisfaction, core measures, physician quality reporting, population health statistics, and billing. In addition, Piedmont provided daily updates about the critical data.

"Change will occur; what will vary is each organization's path to embrace the future," according to the report.

For more information:
- check out the report

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