Inpatient volumes continue to decline

Industry experts expect the declining inpatient volume trend to continue through the rest of 2014 and beyond, according to a Health Finance News post.

One reason for the continued decline is the shift of care to outpatient settings like retail clinics, according to Moody's Investors Service. 

Several other factors also contribute to the lower volumes, Steve Gelineau, senior vice president for hospital management consulting firm the Camden Group, told HFN. They include:

  • Elective admissions, which never recovered after dropping during the Recession;

  • Pressure to reduce readmissions as a result of the Affordable Care Act;

  • Hospitals building clinically integrated networks to emphasize prevention and proactive care; and

  • New technologies that makes outpatient treatment safer.

These are long-term factors that will not likely change, even as the baby boomer population ages, analysts said. Hospitals should focus on physician recruitment and internal referrals to maintain inpatient levels, Martin Arrick, managing director of U.S. Public Finance for Standard & Poor's, told HFN.

Meanwhile, hospitals across the country feel the direct impact of declining inpatient volume. In northwest Indiana, Franciscan Alliance blames the decrease for ongoing layoffs and position elimination, the Times of Northwest Indiana reported.

Franciscan Alliance Northern Indiana Region CEO Gene Diamond declined to give the publication specific numbers of layoffs and position cuts because the organization is still in the process of notifying employees. However, the layoffs follow announcements that last year the health system cut 275 employees at its 11 hospitals and healthcare facilities in October, and 125 people in September.

The hospital will no longer fill many volume-related positions, such as nurses or physicians office staff members, because there are not enough inpatients to warrant that staff, according to the article.

A recent study published in Health Affairs shows accountable care organization-style healthcare resulted in a drop in inpatient use by driving down avoidable admissions as well as shortening lengths of stay, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the HFN post
- read the Times of Northwest Indiana article