5 traits essential to success of independent hospitals

Times have not been easy for many independent community hospitals. Yet, some of those organizations have not only survived, but have thrived, according to an article at Hospitals and Health Networks Daily.

In a healthcare world marked by mergers and affiliations, hospitals that have been successful operating on their own have some common characteristics, including strong leadership, a focus on the patient and good relationships with their partners, writes Ryan E. Ross, a senior director at FTI Consulting's health solution's strategy and planning practice. To find out what makes those independent hospitals successful, the Indianapolis consulting firm studied a number of these high-performing organizations.

The following are five prominent factors they found that characterize successful independent hospitals:

  1. Geography and demography. Many independent hospitals have benefited from a unique feature that creates a favorable market. Those might include an affluent community, a geographical barrier impacting competition, distance to the next largest city or hospital, or unique state or local political support. But location isn't enough to remain independent; it takes strategy, execution and culture, Ross writes.
  2. Leadership. Strong, sustained leadership is a key component to an organization's ability to maintain independence, the study says. Leadership often starts at the board level, with members' ties to the community and expertise they bring to the table. It also takes strong administrative leaders, not just at the top, but throughout the organization. 
  3. Data-driven decision-making. These organizations make use of data-driven analytics, Ross writes. That provides them more robust information on which to make decisions and gives them documentation and support for those decisions when held accountable by physicians, patients, or community interests. 
  4. True patient focus. These independent hospitals have long been focused on patient-centered decision-making. That is true not just when it comes to patient care, but in their overall service configuration, strategies and culture, Ross writes.
  5. Relationship building. They often have deeply entrenched relationships with external organizations that function much like partnerships. Benefits can include leading market share, in-network status in major health plans, sustainable reimbursement rates and support of the community.

The study also showed that if independent hospitals chose to affiliate with another healthcare organization, these stronger independent hospitals fared well, and in some cases, become market aggregators, Ross says.

Independence gives hospitals room to adapt to local needs and some have found they can retain their independence through more limited partnerships and collaborations rather than outright affiliations. Hospitals should move cautiously if they choose to affiliate, since those partnerships don't always have the desired results. Some studies show that rather than providing more care at less cost, costs typically increase as a result of a merger.

To learn more:
- read the article