3 ways outsourcing clinical services helps the bottom line

Not too long ago, many hospitals held the view that clinical services were a core function that could not be outsourced.

But with the advent of healthcare reform and the focus on decreased costs and improved care, that perspective has changed. It has been well-documented that clinical departments that rely on external expertise can see improvements in patient flow and patient satisfaction scores due to the establishment of shared best practices and years of experience focusing on key metrics. They also see other improvements that can help affect the bottom line, including the following:

1. Greater physician/hospital alignment
The Phoenix Group, a think tank of leading hospitalist groups, named outsourcing as key way to improve physician/hospital alignment. Many outsourcing companies have established tools to improve communication between providers and disparate department staff as well as communication between clinicians and patients. Improved communication between various hospital departments leads to improved alignment across the board. Outsourcing companies also tend to work not only with front-line caregivers, but with administrators as well, which can align goals from the top down and build buy-in from all involved.

2. Improved throughput
Optimizing patient flow is critical for hospital operations. It ensures efficient use of capital and maximizes Return on Assets (ROA). Poor throughput creates bottlenecks, increases wait times for patients and adversely affects patient satisfaction. With the shared knowledge and experience outsourcing companies can offer, these companies have proven methods for improving throughput and increasing flow.

3. Recruiting resources and staffing consistency
Physicians and clinicians recognize that working with a large outsourcing company offers benefits not found in smaller practices. EmCare recently polled physicians who had worked in smaller group practices to ask why they moved to a large national company. Some of their responses:
- "The resources and support available at a national company."
- "More opportunities for training and career development."
- "More stability that comes from established best practices and standards."
- "They manage all the scheduling, billing, credentialing and other 'back office' activities so that I can focus on patient care."
- "Technology to improve rounding, billing, coding, patient handoffs and admissions."

With demonstrated improvements in cost management, quality of care, key metrics, staffing stability and enhanced reimbursement, it's no wonder that outsourcing continues to grow. As questions and challenges about healthcare in the U.S. continue to emerge, and issues such as ICD-10 transition keep popping up, hospitals are likely to keep seeking the expert advice that comes from the tremendous resources and across-the-spectrum experience of national outsourcing groups.

Thom Mayer is the National Executive Vice President of EmCare and founder and Chief Executive Officer of BestPractices. He writes and lectures frequently on leadership, management, customer service, crisis management and flow in healthcare.

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