5 ways hospitals can stay ahead of the healthcare change curve


SeSe Yennes

Vice President and General Manager
Enterprise Corporate Accounts, Midwest Region
Cardinal Health

The ever-increasing financial and quality pressures facing hospitals and health systems are also challenging the partners who support them. Companies who serve hospitals and health systems must adapt their products and services to meet the changing constraints that their customers face. Moreover, as more hospital executives are evaluating their partners, so must industry partners build stronger relationships with an often new customer stakeholder: the hospital C-suite.

Hospital C-suite priorities

Changes in healthcare are increasingly grabbing the attention of the hospital C-suite, from driving greater engagement and collaboration among providers, payers and patient care settings, to payment models switching from volume to value-based.

In fact, according to a survey by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)1, the top concern of hospital CEOs is financial challenges, in large part due to anxiety over government funding cuts and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Patient safety and quality also rank high on their list of concerns, as do healthcare reform and the alignment of provider and payer incentives.

At Cardinal Health, we are focusing on five areas to adapt to a changing healthcare marketplace and meet the needs of the hospital C-suite:

  • Improve efficiencies
  • Improve quality and patient safety
  • Strengthen finances
  • Establish partnerships with payers
  • Travel the continuum of care

1. Improve efficiencies

As many hospitals seek innovative approaches to improving efficiencies and productivity, they are leaning on partners to provide best practices from across the industry. For example, one innovative approach to improving efficiency in hospital pharmacies of a variety of sizes is the use of remote pharmacy services to provide efficiencies and cost savings.

Case in point: a 123-bed rural hospital that was struggling to meet Meaningful Use requirements and attract pharmacists to practice in a rural area. The solution? Cardinal Health provides medication order entry and review for the hospital during nights and weekends. The results speak for themselves. The hospital has saved $78,000 in labor costs and avoided $230,000 in costs from pharmacy interventions.

In another example, a 600-bed academic medical center leveraged Cardinal Health's Remote Pharmacy Service to free up staff to focus on CPOE implementation. Using remote services enabled them to meet their goal of a successful and timely implementation of CPOE without having to hire additional personnel on their end.

In both cases, the hospitals leveraged remote order entry to drive financial gains, and to increase quality and patient safety — addressing top C-suite concerns.

2. Improve quality and patient safety

When it comes to improving quality and patient safety, some hospitals and health systems are defining new standards to measure improvements. For example, one of the nation's largest health care systems is cultivating a standard, common approach for managing and measuring medication safety initiatives and outcomes. In partnership with Cardinal Health, this health system is implementing best practices for opioid safety, glycemic management, anticoagulant safety and reducing readmissions. In addition, it's establishing work groups to take a system-wide approach to standardizing processes, policies and measurements across all hospitals within the system to help achieve goals for medication-related strategies. Measuring the effectiveness and impact of quality and patient safety programs is a key focus for C-suite stakeholders – and will help ensure sustained results over time.

3. Strengthen finances

For the past decade, hospital operating margins have remained flat, as costs have increased at the same pace as revenue – about 5% per year1. At the same time, hospital executives are searching for ways to finance new technology solutions to drive better outcomes, without further impacting their bottom line.

One 965-bed hospital is working with Cardinal Health to achieve $4.5 million in savings over a three-year period through medication utilization and clinical programs. These initiatives are leveraging the safest, most efficacious, and cost effective medication therapies — combined with a multidisciplinary approach with medical care teams to drive clinical results. The initiative is demonstrating the financial return on investment when change management is successfully implemented within a clinical setting — and in doing so, elevating its importance to the C-suite.

4. Establish partnerships with payers

As all players in the healthcare industry are increasingly collaborating across care settings, payers and providers are also finding new ways to work together. Payers in particular are eying opportunities to improve outcomes and lower costs, for good reason: it's an equation of supply and demand. Between 2000 and 2050, the number of senior citizens is expected to increase by 135%. More importantly, those aged 85 and older – the group most likely to need health and long-term care services, is expected to rise by 350%.2

One of the most effective ways to improve outcomes, minimize adverse drug events, and avoid unnecessary healthcare costs is to help ensure that patients are taking their medications correctly: that they are on the right medications, using them the right way and achieving desired results with the least amount of side or adverse effects. Payers and providers alike are finding that Medication Therapy Management (MTM) — a consultation delivered by specially licensed pharmacists — can help achieve all of these goals.

For example, Cardinal Health provides MTM services on behalf of retail independent pharmacies and recently expanded an MTM model for payers and health insurance plans. The goal is to help payers identify and reach their highest-risk, hardest-to-reach members to reduce medication-related gaps in care, and improve outcomes.

5. Travel the continuum of care

Finally, many hospitals today are developing delivery strategies that span the continuum of care, and do not stop at the four walls of the hospital. A recent study has shown that about 50% of patients cannot recall discharge orders; of these, 70% will likely be readmitted.3

A 775-bed academic medical center in the Northeast is collaborating with Cardinal Health to develop a leading-edge bedside prescription concierge service aimed at improving post-discharge outcomes and reducing readmissions. The program originally focused on the bedside delivery of post-discharge medications for cardiac patients.

Since its implementation, 94 percent of eligible patients have elected to participate in the program, representing nearly 4,000 prescriptions filled by the outpatient pharmacy. In addition, while the service transfers prescription refills to the patient's selected community pharmacy, about 40 percent of participants are returning to the hospital's outpatient pharmacy for refill medications. Based on its success with cardiac patients, the service was expanded to the Mother and Baby Unit with the primary goal to increase patient satisfaction, and then most recently expanded to serve the hospital's Accountable Care Organization (ACO) patients. The end goal is to keep patients healthy, increase medication adherence, and ultimately reduce hospital readmissions and the cost of care.

Meeting executive expectations

In short, the entire healthcare industry – from providers to payers, from third-party partners to patients – is looking at the delivery and operating model in a different light. Hospitals and health systems are expecting their third-party partners to bring new ideas and solutions to address this transformation in care delivery. For partners who vie for the attention of hospital executives, this means thinking ahead of the change curve and delivering innovative, collaborative solutions that can be scaled to meet each organization's needs and patient populations.