They say that timing is everything. This seems to be the time to criticize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on implementation issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act, but I want to buck that trend. I want to thank HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for funding my association for a project that has yielded some very real and tangible results.
Under the ACA, NJHA was awarded about $7 million for a two-year project to help our hospitals improve quality of care and patient safety. It’s part of the nationwide Partnership for Patients initiative; you can read more about New Jersey’s efforts here. A portion of that federal money was used to help 14 hospitals with a project to work on patient flow and work flow reforms in their operating and emergency departments. We are proud of the results: reduced wait times and shorter hospital stays for patients, reduced operating costs and increased revenues for hospitals. Those results were achieved in a 15-month collaborative between our hospitals and the Boston-based Institute for Healthcare Optimization.
The results show great promise for both improving patient care and reducing long-term healthcare costs. Data from our 14 participating hospitals showed projected summary results of:
- 11,800 to 17,300 additional patients that could be treated without adding inpatient beds or operating rooms
- Roughly 20,000 additional patients that could be accommodated in hospital emergency departments
- 21 percent to 85 percent decrease in wait times for emergency department patients to be admitted to a hospital bed
- Reductions in the length of hospital stays ranging from 3 percent to 47 percent for certain groups of patients.
Those results are based on the collective data from CentraState Medical Center, Cooper University Hospital, HackensackUMC Mountainside, Inspira Health Network Woodbury, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Monmouth Medical Center, Morristown Medical Center, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, University Hospital and The Valley Hospital.
How’d they do it? Working closely with Eugene Litvak, PhD, a Harvard professor and a specialist in operations management in healthcare, hospitals analyzed the inefficiencies in their operations, which included uneven usage of operating rooms, which led to long waits, overtime costs and cancellation of procedures at peak times. Other problems included bottlenecks in admitting patients to inpatient beds which forced many patients to wait long periods in the emergency department or in post-surgery units.
To address these problems, hospitals redesigned OR space, scheduling and staffing, including the creation of designated blocks for emergency urgent surgeries. Others adopted new standardized discharge processes to increase bed availability. It was a team effort that included both the hospitals’ administrators and managers, but also the physicians who provide care within the hospitals.
This initiative is part of the often-overlooked part of the ACA – the effort to redesign healthcare so that it provides quality care at lower costs. So while I know that people feel strongly about the ACA, both positive and negative, I just want to thank HHS and CMS for funding this important initiative. I also thank our member hospitals and their staffs. A lot of hard work went into it – and now we’ve been rewarded with some truly impressive results.