As physicians, including hospitalists, focus on the now—getting the patient in front of them better—they may lose sight of the trends shaping their professional lives. Those trends, called “business drivers” occupy CEOs, CFOs, and other top managers who build strategies by understanding what drivers make organizations successful.
It’s not an easy job. Even the Delphic Oracle might have trouble divining which of the myriad competing drivers will make a hospital better and more profitable than its rivals. Take your pick: Sluggish inpatient volumes, shifts to outpatient procedures, high construction costs, expensive new technologies, an aging population, and consumer-driven care are among the business drivers currently on managers’ minds. (See “Trend Spotters,” p. 48.)
Michael Guthrie, MD, MBA, an executive-in-residence at the University of Colorado, School of Business (Boulder), Health Administration and a presenter at SHM’s September 2005 Leadership Conference in Vail, Colo., sees our aging population as a key business driver shaping hospital and physician livelihoods.
“The aging population and the shift to consumerism in healthcare are definitely on the hospital CEO’s mind,” he says. “Hospitalists need to understand how patient satisfaction drives market share and is highly correlated with the hospital’s business objectives.” By extension, hospitalists’ key metrics, such as compliance with Medicare core measures, reducing length of stay (LOS), and costs per case, mesh well with administration’s.
Keeping the CEO’s need to enhance the organization’s reputation and growth in mind, Dr. Guthrie suggests that hospitalists have their hands full. By focusing on measuring quality, providing the 24/7 coverage that patients want and the hospital needs and finding ways to decrease LOS and costs per case, their interests and those of the hospital’s align.
“Based on their conversations and observations of the hospital’s senior managers, hospitalists can figure out what business drivers are preoccupying them,” adds Dr. Guthrie.
Smart hospitalists can significantly boost their hospital’s bottom line according to Tom Hochhausler, Deloitte & Touche USA LLP’s partner of Life Sciences and Health Care Practice and director of the firm’s biennial survey on trends concerning hospital CEOs. Hochhausler says that with hospitals operating on razor-thin margins, hospitalists can increase their value to hospital CEOs and CFOs by improving communication among clinical staff, better adherence to guidelines, and shortening LOS. “They also have some of the best insights into improving quality in hospitals and are powerful teachers of interns and residents,” he adds. (See “What Worries Hospital CEOs,” at left.)
The difficult part for hospitalists is keeping focused on the hospital’s big picture while doing their jobs. For example, Michael Freed, CFO of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spectrum Health, ponders the financial aspects of a huge integrated delivery system with seven hospitals, 12,000 employees, a medical staff of 1,400 and a $2.1 billion budget. Rather than day-to-day concerns he focuses on the future—not one year, but five to 10 years ahead.