Quality of care and safety are the highest priorities for professionals in hospital management. In the words of a 2014 study published by the medical journal BMJ Open, “Managers in healthcare have a legal and moral obligation to ensure a high quality of patient care and to strive to improve care.”
The decisions made and actions taken by hospital managers have a direct effect on patient care. These managers can be found forming goals and strategies, developing organizational culture, monitoring quality, reviewing performances, choosing and implementing new technology or simply overseeing daily workflow. Whatever the manger is doing, the time and effort they spend influence quality and safety in processes, performance and ultimately patient outcomes.
No patient wants to leave the hospital only to return within a few days or weeks. This is just as undesirable to hospital managers as it is to the patients themselves. Readmissions are not only costly to healthcare systems, but speak to a poor overall standard of care.
To prevent readmissions, hospital managers must set up a holistic approach to post-discharge follow-up with patients. Hospital staff must be aware of the patient’s full medical history, particularly if the patient presents a high-risk case. As research indicates that more than 25% of all readmissions within 30 days of discharge are for conditions unrelated to the initial admission, it’s essential for hospital managers to establish protocols for staff that include checking for other conditions that could lead to re-hospitalization.
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Being a Patient Advocate
Nothing is more troubling to a patient, not to mention detrimental to her recovery, than finding out that her insurer has declined to cover the cost of their hospital stay. At the same time, a patient’s misunderstanding of his condition can make him afraid to leave the hospital, leading to a “custodial” hospital stay that costs the system thousands of dollars in reimbursement.
It is a hospital manager’s job to stand in the gap between insurance provider and patient and help to bring resolution between the two. Hospital managers must not only coach their floor staff but often must also communicate directly with the patient herself about the nature of her case and the real necessities of ongoing care. They must find ways to notify patients of the insurance provider’s coverage decisions in a way that contributes to the patient’s well being, and meanwhile advocate on the patient’s behalf to the insurance provider. It is undoubtedly a difficult position to be in, but the way in which a hospital manager negotiates this role as a patient advocate can make all the difference in the world to both the patient’s quality of care and the hospital’s financial bottom line.
At the end of the day, this is the hospital manager’s primary focus. The better the results are for patient outcomes, the more profitable and successful a healthcare system will be.
Improved outcomes are anchored in quality medical procedures, but that’s only the beginning. For good patient outcomes to be truly sustainable, the patient must have a clear and achievable goal for their health, a well-defined plan for pursuing that goal, and an accessible structure that encourages their progress. It falls to hospital management to set up that structure using personnel, technology, and any other resources available to them.
Creating a Healthy Culture
Finally, hospital managers must set the bar high for all hospital staff in terms of corporate culture. Hospital management must foster a commitment among physicians, nurses and administrators to going the extra mile on behalf of a patient’s care. When an entire staff buys into the mission of improving patient health, only then can the healthcare organization truly thrive from a business standpoint.
Hospital managers are the standard-bearers for patient outcomes within any given healthcare system. They must be well grounded in both the business aspect of healthcare as well as the on-the-ground clinical operations, and bring both perspectives in equal measure to the decisions they make. To learn more about what it takes to become a healthcare administrator, visit The George Washington University’s Healthcare MBA Program.