I recently read a great article in HealthLeaders Media about how hospitals are evaluating their service lines to ensure they are providing comprehensive care to their patient populations, while maintaining positive margins.
The cause behind the trend of hospitals expanding their service lines is two-fold. On the one hand, hospitals develop new service lines as a means to attract new patients and revenue. On the other hand, many programs included in the Affordable Care Act, including ACOs, incentivize hospitals and healthcare organizations to provide comprehensive, high quality, multi-specialty care to a population of patients. The current problem for many organizations is, as Peggy L. Naas, MD, MBA, vice president of physician strategies for VHA Inc. points out, “much of healthcare happens outside the hospital.”
This is why more and more hospitals are expanding the services they offer. Providing care in more settings and specialties ensures hospitals and healthcare organizations can provide the breadth of services needed to participate in the ACO program and gives them greater control over the quality of care patients receive outside the acute care setting.
The depth of service lines often comes down to the needs of the patients in the area. General surgery, cardiovascular care, and orthopedics are specialties that tend to perform well almost anywhere, but the decision to expand into other service lines, such as gastrointestinal care, musculoskeletal services, and oncology, will depend on the population’s needs and competitors in the area.
Mark Loos, system vice president for clinical services at Palmetto Health told HealthLeaders “You don’t want to be a patient and wait six months to see a specialist. Service lines are being designed not only for improved clinical care and outcomes, but also with an eye to the manner in which the organization can attract them into the system,” he adds.
Staffing Service Lines
Maintaining proper staffing levels is one of the keys to sustaining or establishing a successful, profitable service line. Hospital service lines that do not have enough providers available to meet patient demand risk losing business.
Locum tenens staffing is a flexible solution for service line managers, allowing organizations to efficiently manage staffing levels and mixes in light of changing demand. Facilities that need time to recruit permanent employees for new or existing service lines can also benefit from locum tenens providers to fill the positions.
Healthcare organizations and hospitals should see locum tenens physicians and nurse practitioners as reliable tools that can help them ensure the success of any and all service lines.