Hospitals shift to outpatient care

Hospitals are increasingly turning their focus toward outpatient services.

For instance, Illinois' Northwest Community Healthcare is hopping on the trend, opening four new outpatient facilities next year, the Chicago Daily Herald reported. The system already has four immediate-care centers and a FastCare Clinic offering walk-in treatment.

The aim of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a driving force prompting hospitals to boost outpatient services, Northwest CEO Bruce Crowther told the Daily Herald.

"We can anticipate lower (Medicare) payments, and we can anticipate a shift in incentives to less inpatient work and more outpatient work. Our inpatient volume here and elsewhere is falling and outpatient volume is rising," he said.

Health insurers, including UnitedHealth and Aetna, also are taking credit for increased use of outpatient care, FierceHealthPayer recently reported. "Some of that outpatient growth is purposeful on our part," Aetna's Chief Financial Officer Joe Zubretsky said. Moving certain healthcare services out of traditional inpatient settings could help reduce costs.

The outpatient trend can be seen in Ohio as well, where Cleveland's MetroHealth System is adding a new suburban health center. MetroHealth Middleburg Heights Health Center joins a growing list of newly opened outpatient facilities and increased outpatient staff hiring throughout the state.

But as hospitals enhance outpatient services, they'll have to face more competition from outpatient and ambulatory facilities, Crowther noted.

However, patients may still prefer to receive care in a health system, according to MetroHealth's William R. Lewis, chairman of the market development campaign, leader of the network expansion initiative and chief of clinical cardiology at MetroHealth Medical Center. "They want to know that this care is not just one-stop-shopping; it is going to be delivered as a part of their overall healthcare," he told FierceHealthcare in a recent interview.

To learn more:
- read the Daily Herald article
- here's the MetroHealth interview