Thinner margins mean hospitals must better manage outpatient care

Outpatient care is both the great salvation and curse for providers. It promises to lower the cost of care for patients, but reimbursements are often significantly lower as well. That means hospitals often have to engage in a juggling act to ensure they carefully manage the costs for such patients in order to ensure that margins remain intact. And it will be become more commonplace as payment models shift toward value-based care, according to Hospitals & Health Networks.

"Providers should evaluate all costs associated with multiple episodes of care at multiple locations to understand the true clinical and financial value of delivering care in an outpatient setting," the post noted. To that end, providers in the outpatient game must keep in mind specific management strategies to better manage the financial aspects of their outpatient business, according to the publication.

Among the most important strategies is to adopt a scheduling algorithm for each patient. This makes it much easier to catch outlier cases, which can strain resources and also impact margins.

Scheduling appointments in appropriate sequence--such as ensuring that all diagnostic tests have taken place prior to a surgical consult--is extremely important not only to streamline time, but to ensure that the organization received reimbursements from payers and that the patient is engaged with the care.

To reinforce patient engagement, the post suggests hospitals route patients to facilities that are most convenient to where they live and their overall ability to get around.

But whether hospitals and other providers will coordinate care in the appropriate manner remains to be seen. Some seem to be doing it primarily by merging with one another, which mostly serves to drive up the costs of care delivery. Others have suggested team-based approaches for care coordination.

Healthcare IT News has reported that there is a variety of current and emerging technologies to better coordinate patient care and ensure its more efficient delivery.

To learn more:
- read the Hospitals & Health Networks article 
- check out the Healthcare IT News article