14 Dec Reducing Health Costs Starts at the Clinic
By Hannah Nava
From car payments to mortgages, there are many financial burdens that individuals face on a daily basis. The most expensive of these burdens is healthcare: Whether visiting the doctors for respiratory issues to extended hospital stays after surgery, it costs to get better. And these costs are at an all time high, a reported $2.7 trillion in 2011 according to the White House. Patients aren’t alone in feeling the financial strain. Physicians are affected, too, and this affects their care of patients.
One such physician is Dr. Hough, a specialist in family medicine. He works at an immediate clinic on the East coast with two other doctors and seven support staff. Equipment, supplies, and payroll are just some of the costs necessary to maintain their well-run clinic. But administrative costs, data implementation and storage issues, and miscommunication or lack thereof between physicians/hospitals can increase costs unnecessarily.
Administrative costs are any costs that come from employees conducting typical business duties, including securing payments, scheduling, and data requests. If a clinic or hospital lacks efficient processes, the costs for these will remain unnecessarily high. In an effort to combat their clinic’s costs, the staff and doctors decided to implement new measures, including an electronic health record (EHR) system and standardized procedures.
Dr. Hough’s clinic currently utilizes electronic medical records (EMRs), which has reduced some of their costs over the years by making patient records digital; however, they still need to make calls to patients’ other physicians and send records. By implementing an electronic health record system, Dr. Hough’s clinic will streamline patient records in one location that can be accessed by other approved parties. Because Dr. Hough and his staff can access the entirety of a patient’s record, they no longer need to spend time making calls to other physicians.
Though ERPs benefit healthcare providers immensely, it can initially be a difficult implementation. All files must be transcribed to the new ERP system; however, many companies offer easy, seamless EHR transcription services to reduce errors and mismanagement. Dr. Hough’s staff will also have to learn how to use the new EHR system, especially if they have not previously used one before. They will need to utilize training simulations to ensure they are correctly using the system. Finally, there is the upfront cost. EHR systems that offer more services will be more expensive. But overtime the system will help pay for itself with the money it says the clinic.
Disconnect Among Healthcare Providers
Because his clinic is implementing an EHR system, Dr. Hough knows that his patients’ care will improve. Since all of his patients’ records are available to him, Dr. Hough can make the best decisions regarding their care. If he sees that a patient is on certain medications, he’ll avoid prescribing a new one that can negatively interact. He can also identify what courses of treatment are being taken for other conditions and assign a treatment that helps—nor hinders—the others.
Patient re-admittance from drug side effects, infections, or prescription interactions can be avoided through more strict quality and safety regulations. A lack of preventative measures also hikes up the costs of healthcare: For patients, who have to pay for a revisit and more medication; for physicians, who must spend additional time with the patient; and for hospitals, who must now cover costs of supplies used during the re-visit. Dr. Hough knows that by implementing the EHR system, he will prevent his patients coming back to him for the same issue, because he and his staff are ensuring absolute tailored care for their unique conditions.
These are just two steps Dr. Hough’s clinic is making to reduce its costs and its costs for its patients. But he knows that there are more areas that can be improved so that money is saved. The healthcare industry is offering more lifesaving procedures and medicine than ever before, but at a severe blow to patient wallets. Like other physicians, Dr. Hough knows it doesn’t have to be that way—it will just take time.
Hannah Nava loves writing about any topic, and health topics are no exception. She currently writes on behalf of the medical practice management specialists at Omni MD. When not marrying words, Hannah enjoys reading science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian works; sipping margaritas (always frozen); and trying to make the world a happier place. Tweet her @hannahmnava or connect with her on LinkedIn.