How flu season can affect hospital finances

The severity of the flu season affects a hospital's patient volume, depending on the number of flu medical visits and flu hospitalizations, but it can also affect its finances, according to The Post and Courier.

Five things to know:

1. Many health providers say they believe a provider's overall size, patient population, business model and additional health services contribute to the financial impact of a flu season, The Post and Courier reported.

2. Chris Glenn, director of finance for the Roper St. Francis hospital system in Charleston, S.C., said revenue from patients during last year's severe flu season helped offset losses from a snowstorm that hit the state in 2018.

3. Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, which includes a 700-bed medical center, has the potential for a negative financial impact from heavy flu hospitalizations. This is reportedly due to increased emergency department use. Heather Woolwine, the medical center's spokesperson, told the Post and Courier that flu patients who don't have a primary physician and may be uninsured use MUSC's emergency department, and those healthcare costs are typically absorbed within the budget.

4. A report published by Moody's Investors Service during last year's severe flu season stated that a spike in patient volume is often a credit-positive for hospitals, since reimbursements are often associated with the number of patients served. But the ratings agency projected the spike in flu-related patient volume would pressure hospital margins because reimbursements for flu-related services often don't cover the treatment cost.

5. As of Feb. 11, the CDC estimated that there have been 13.2 million to 15.2 million flu illnesses this season.


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