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Strategies to reduce organizational costs in 2020

It’s no myth that costs can be taken out of healthcare organizations. Here are some strategies you can employ in 2020. I discussed these at a recent Becker’s Hospital Review conference and panel discussion.

Some of the tips we discussed:

Working with multiple HIT vendors tends to increase costs.

But the solution isn’t just making the existing electronic health records (EHRs) interoperate. That requires more expense. Instead, integrated EHR systems are available that work off the same database, which reduces resources and saves money. No interface maintenance for the usual EHR functionality required. If you have inpatient and outpatient EHRs, they may share information, but you’re still not getting the benefit of all of the data as if those systems were fully integrated.

Reduce variability in processes and practices. Variability is inversely related to efficiency. The more variable a process, the less efficient it is and the more resources it requires.

Staffing is the costliest expense to your organization. Using an integrated system, areas such as scheduling and billing may become centralized across your organization. You may save costs by repurposing a percentage of those full-time employees in those areas.

You can also save costs by decreasing variability in your clinical content by standardizing admission order sets, problem-based order sets and documentation templates. Decreasing variability and processing of your equipment in your organization may also decrease costs. As an example, each surgeon doesn’t necessarily require a different tool. As in informatics, good leadership and a strong vision is required to drive out variability.

Reduce burden by catering to clinician motivations.

I asked the audience which of these employee types they are most concerned about regarding clinician burden: Physicians, nurses, mid-level providers and technicians. Most voted for nurses. Many people believe physicians are most likely to burn out first. In reality, it’s the nurses.One way to reduce burden for nurses is to determine what motivates them. Is it to see as many patients as possible?

Or is it to get out in time for their child’s soccer game? How well an employer matches employee motivation to job responsibilities can help decrease burden and cost. The financial cost due to loss of an employee is large and minimizing employee turnover by matching employee motivations to job responsibilities can decrease turnover and hence, costs.

Throughout any cost reduction effort, communication is key. The No. 1 one obstacle to taking cost out of the organization is change management executed poorly. You need to be transparent about how change will affect your goals and make that data reliable, transparent and available. Lack of communication and accountability – especially with doctors – can stymie your progress.

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