Positioning community hospitals for success as strategies begin to change

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Over the past year, community hospitals were challenged with addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, while limited resources, clinician burnout and community outreach continue to be an issue.

During a Feb. 25 roundtable sponsored by Allscripts and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, industry experts discussed challenges facing community hospitals this year and how priorities are shifting back to the patient experience and quality improvement programs.

Participants were:

  • Karan Singh, MD, chief quality officer and medical director of the department of emergency medicine at San Gorgonio Hospital (Banning, Calif.)
  • Bonnie McGuire, senior solutions manager at Allscripts
  • Heather O'Brien, business operations leader of client delivery services at Allscripts

Five takeaways:

1. Shifting hospital strategies. Community hospitals are beginning to refocus on quality improvement, the patient experience and safety programs while continuing to address the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The patient experience suffered greatly during the pandemic with many patients in isolation and family members unable to visit them. "COVID placed an extra lens of complexity for us ... but we have to shift our focus on other organizational priorities as well to ensure that all patients are receiving quality care at our hospital," Dr. Singh said.

2. Standardization and evidence-based content. In recent years, healthcare has shifted from the need for customization to the desire for standardization, according to Ms. O'Brien. Benefits of standardization include improved quality reporting, decreased maintenance costs and the ability to flex staff across multiple facilities with minimal training. The industry has also moved away from client-designed content to an expectation of evidence-based content, which Allscripts integrates into many of its baseline EHR packages.

3. Expansion of telehealth. The pandemic led to the widespread expansion of telehealth, particularly in the ambulatory space as physician offices and clinics needed to safely treat patients without exposing them to risk of exposure to COVID-19, according to Ms. McGuire. "People that had resisted or not even considered using it were suddenly avid users," she said. "This led to the option of telehealth becoming firmly embedded in the expectations of both patients and providers."

4. Patients' mindsets are changing. Patients are now more focused on their health and access to their medical information as a result of the pandemic. "More people are now accessing their information through the portal and messaging their providers through their patient applications," Ms. McGuire said. "The feeling of being 'more involved' is there and the expectation of being able to use technology to augment their traditional healthcare is becoming more of an expectation."

5. More change is coming. The healthcare sector is expected to continue to evolve in the coming years, with value-based care, patient engagement and transparency key areas for hospitals and health systems. "Patients want to be empowered by understanding their options for care and where they can receive it, so they are able to best make a decision for themselves," Dr. Singh said. "Eventually, there will be a transition towards value-based care from both patients as well as insurance providers and physicians."

Click here to view the webinar and here to learn more about Allscripts.

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