Hospital execs embrace 'spend to save' mindset

Reducing expenses doesn't always mean making cuts. Sometimes it takes an initial investment to realize future savings.

Hospitals are seeing higher costs of supplies, staffing and logistics headed into 2024, so CEOs and executive teams are looking for ways to reduce waste and maximize efficiencies while still providing high quality care. In some cases, that means reduced spending, but not always.

"Sometimes you have to spend to save, so we also invest in initiatives that yield significant returns on investment, such as employee health and satisfaction," David Verinder, president and CEO of Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Health Care System, told Becker's. "For example, this year SMH opened an employee pharmacy and increased its investment in preventative care for our 10,000-plus employees, which we believe will reduce healthcare expenses for our staff and the health system."

Mr. Verinder also asked leaders to promote a positive, supportive work environment and routinely recognize the team's dedication as a way to retain top talent.

"Such efforts increase employee engagement, reduce turnover and lead to safer, higher quality patient care," said Mr. Verinder.

Gina Calder, president of Barnes Jewish St. Peters Hospital and Progress West Hospital in St. Peters, Mo., has a similar philosophy. She said the system is investing in patient and employee experience and satisfaction as part of a long term strategy to reduce expenses.

"Staffing will always be a major part of our expense base, but it's not a fixed cost, so we can be flexible and creative," she told Becker's. "At BJC, we help ourselves by giving our people a great experience and growth opportunities so they want to stay with us long term. It drives greater value to invest in our own people than continuously recruit, train and lose new team members, so the money we spend now to retain and develop our people will save a lot of expense later, and result in much better patient care."

Ms. Calder also noted that workforce and nursing shortages have forced the system to consider technology investments as well to boost the workforce. The healthcare system must adapt to provide quality care in the future.

"It is critical we embrace new technology to streamline our processes, create efficiency and focus our peoples' time on the work only they can truly do," she said. "And we need to keep pushing ourselves to challenge the status quo, because that's where the real opportunities for change and progress – and savings – are going to come from."

City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., has also made key investments to become more cost-effective in care delivery and reduce expenses.

"We are engaged in optimizing site of care, leveraging our on-site hotels," said Harlan Levine, MD, president of health innovation and policy at City of Hope. "We also invested in Reimagine Care, a company that delivers cancer care and symptom management to cancer patients who have recently been discharged to home."

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