Is the Healthcare Industry Paralyzing Patient Care with Numbers?
For some time now, the mindset in the healthcare industry has been that the economies of scale created by the mergers of healthcare systems have resulted in superior patient care. Financial analysts have argued that since consolidation has worked for airlines, restaurant chains and insurance companies, then why not for the medical community?
Consolidation has been presumed to reduce costs and expand services and treatment options, especially in competitive markets. The raw numbers might seem to support this contention; certainly, there are budgetary advantages of lowering unit costs of medical devices, buying pharmaceuticals in greater quantities or eliminating redundant administrators. But experts are now warning that in the rush to consolidate, one critical factor is being overlooked: patient care.
New Findings on the Patient Experience
A recent New York Times article entitled “Hospital Mergers Improve Health? Evidence Shows the Opposite,” suggests that tragically, the results of merging have led to an increase in patient mortality and a decline in care.
Martin Gaynor, a Carnegie Mellon University economist and one of the authorities cited in the article says “evidence from three decades of hospital mergers does not support the claim that consolidation improves quality (care).”
To back that up, the Federal Trade Commission recently reviewed the cases of about two million Medicare beneficiaries who had been treated for heart disease over an eight-year period. According to the article, in areas of the country where there is less competition “(Cardiac) patients are more likely to have heart attacks, visit the emergency department, be readmitted to the hospital or die.” In fact, in areas where there is one dominant cardiology clinic and the elimination of competition, cardiac patients may stand a 5-7% chance of having a repeat heart attack.
When competition is allowed in a market, healthcare staffs have no choice but to turn their mindset to the patient. They have to care about patient satisfaction, and in turn patients respond to that care. This is just as true in countries where there is strong government regulation, such as England, as it is in the United States.
According to the New York Times piece, “family doctors in England found that quality (care) and patient satisfaction increased with competition.”
More Than Numbers, It’s Mindset
In many areas of the country, consolidation has also created long patient wait times to make appointments and then once in the facility to be seen in a timely manner. Some healthcare specialists believe that if wait times are streamlined then patient satisfaction will dramatically improve. This is the case of another “number” being applied to a complex issue as though patients are pieces on a conveyor line.
Press Ganey Associates is the leading market research firm for the healthcare industry known for its patient satisfaction surveys. In other words, they talk to patients. Joe Greskoviak, president and CEO at Press Ganey concluded:
“The immediate reaction is that patient loyalty is based off things like wait time. That’s not necessarily the case. There are drivers of patient loyalty that are very actionable (such as) improving communication and then, empathy. Patients want to understand that we actually care for them.”
Chasing the numbers is paralyzing patient care rather than curing it. Healthcare providers need to re-examine the mindset that consolidation, automation and computerization can improve patient satisfaction simply by reducing budgets, improving wait times and other analytics. There needs to be a renewed and shared vision that the focus of healthcare must return to the patient.
Contact Scott Burrows, Healthcare Industry Motivational Speaker through this website or call us today at: (520) 548-1169