ACA changing ways hospitals operate

The Affordable Care Act is not only altering the U.S. health insurance system and the way Americans obtain coverage, but it is also changing the way hospitals operate, NPR reported.

The primary change is in the form of bundled payments from the Medicare program for some procedures, and no financial incentives for medical errors, readmissions or other mishaps related to poor patient care, as well as financial penalties based on how they score on a wide range of quality ratings.

"Everybody in the healthcare system gets rewarded for doing more, rather than rewarded for doing the right thing," Ken Berkovitz, M.D., a cardiologist for Summa Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio, told NPR.

Now, the hospital's medical staff follows checklists, such as whether patients receive their antibiotics on time, and whether catheters are removed on schedule. Summa Akron surgeon Eric Espinal, M.D., told NPR that using the checklist felt odd, but given NASCAR drivers and airline pilots use them to avoid mishaps, he could as well.

The medical and nursing staff also meet to discuss the costs of various cases, and what can be done to save money--such as cutting down on surgeon tardiness to make sure the hospital doesn't keep pricey operating rooms open and unused for large periods of time.

Quality of care has not always been first and foremost in the minds of hospital leaders. A study published earlier this year indicated the chairs of boards of U.S. hospitals discussed the issue far less than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Despite the changes being made at the policy and provider levels, the American public does not believe that the ACA will improve the quality of the healthcare they receive. According to a Quinnipiac survey released earlier this month, only 19 percent believe the ACA will improve the quality of the care they will receive, Politico reported. However, that low score is tied to the poor performance of the HealthCare.gov website, which is unrelated to patient care.

To learn more:
- read the NPR article
- here's the Politico article

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