Health systems turn to buyouts

Hospitals and health systems are implementing various strategies as they look to drive efficiency and plan for short-term and long-term growth. One strategy seen at several systems in recent months: offering buyouts and voluntary separation to workers.

There are a number of factors contributing to the strategy. Organizations are looking to cut costs to shore up their finances and looking to meet evolving technology and workforce needs.

Urbana, Ill.-based Carle Health initiated a voluntary separation program for some employees earlier this month, citing a need to reduce expenses in the long term.

The program is "a mutually beneficial program used to support long-term cost reduction while supporting non-patient care team members interested in leaving the organization with financial support," health system spokesperson Brittany Simon told Becker's. It is not available to employees who work in direct patient care areas.

Ms. Simon said the program will not affect the scope and quality of care provided at the health system. She attributed the decision to ongoing financial challenges in healthcare.

Hospitals and health systems have seen some improvements in terms of finances. For the first three quarters of the year, hospital operating margins were up 19% compared to the same period last year, according to Kaufman Hall's October "National Hospital Flash Report." Net operating revenue per calendar day was up 6% and inpatient revenue was up 3%. Still, compared to 2020, year-to-date operating margins in September were down 2%.

Coral Gables, Fla.-based Baptist Health cited its financial picture when it announced this summer that it would offer its executives at the director level and above an opportunity to apply for voluntary separation.

Bo Boulenger, the health system's president and CEO, told staff: "With financial headwinds stemming from rising costs, decreased reimbursement, staffing shortages and other industry factors, we must continue to focus on being a more efficient organization."

Buyouts and voluntary separation have also made it to the digital side. Somerville, Mass.-based Mass General Brigham announced this month that it is offering employees in its technology division buyouts.

The health system said the buyouts are to trim its workforce in today's changing healthcare environment.

"As care delivery changes, whether in a hospital or clinic setting or delivered remotely through in-person or virtual appointments, the tools and technology used to reach patients and support our mission also continues to evolve," Mass General Brigham told the Boston Herald. "As a result of these changes, we have undertaken a comprehensive review of our digital team … to better align our workforce resources and skills with our organizational needs and those of the communities we serve." 

Digital staff members have until Nov. 15 to apply. Mass General Brigham will disclose how many workers accepted buyouts on Nov. 22. 

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