Case study: WA hospital confronts cost challenges

At Skagit Valley Hospital, they're going through the same intense struggle to survive as peers across the country. Like many other hospital leaders, managers at the Mount Vernon, WA facility were forced to make significant cutbacks. Despite making a 5 percent cost reduction, patient access leaders have been able to implement needed changes while continuing to support patients.

In the patient access department, manager Michele Hill, CHAM, found several ways to cut costs. They included reducing monthly staff meetings to quarterly meetings, finding cheaper but more patient-friendly armbands that resulted in a $10,000 annual savings, and centralizing patient access services to create an efficient team capable of being deployed organization-wide. Hill also deployed staff to shifts with greater volumes, and eliminated all travel for 2009.

Unfortunately, these changes weren't quite enough. The hospital also implemented a wage freeze and cut 64 hours of work between May 1 and December 31. Skagit Valley also made staff cuts, though most came from not filling vacant positions. To make the pay and staff cuts sting less, employees have agreed to take no lunch, except when things are particularly slow. At each step, Hill and other managers have worked with their staff to find solutions that employees can accept.

Despite these stresses, working closely with the staff has helped everyone cope, Hill says: "By involving the team in decision-making processes...I have buy-in, and greater success, because they own it."

To learn more about this story:
- read this Health Leaders Media article

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