Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

Thank You, HHS, for Funding Efforts to Improve Healthcare Efficiency

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.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

Rest Assured. Get Insured.

No one likes to get sick, but for more than 1 million New Jersey residents, illness brings a much greater worry. They are New Jersey’s uninsured – individuals and families without health insurance coverage. For them, the lack of health insurance is a major obstacle to accessing preventive care or a simple doctor’s appointment. As a result, a minor illness often becomes a major health concern that can threaten both their physical and financial well-being.

Oct. 1 is an important day for these folks. It marks the opening of the Health Insurance Marketplace, a key part of the Affordable Care Act that aims to ensure millions more Americans.

Whatever your political leanings, Obamacare is here and it’s entering a critical phase. Few could argue against the benefits of health insurance – for both healthcare consumers and for the future of our healthcare delivery system. We urge all uninsured New Jersey residents to explore their options in the Health Insurance Marketplace at or Subsidies and tax credits are available to eligible individuals and families to help make coverage more affordable. Additional information and assistance is available around the clock by calling 1-800-318-2596.

Health insurance provides better access to healthcare services and delivers financial peace of mind. Help you and your loves ones rest assured: Get insured.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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A Labor Day Salute to Healthcare Workers, Providing Care 24/7/365

Happy Labor Day! Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and specifically honors the legacy and ongoing work of the nation’s labor unions. It’s an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. And it’s the perfect opportunity to salute New Jersey’s healthcare workers who are on the front lines taking care of New Jersey 24/7/365.

New Jersey hospitals employ about 140,000 individuals. Thousands more across our state are employed by nursing homes, home health agencies, rehabilitation facilities and other healthcare sites. All told, the healthcare sector is the second-largest source of jobs in the Garden State. Their contributions to New Jersey’s economy are essential to our state’s economic well-being. Those 140,000 hospital jobs bring with them $8 billion in annual salaries and $400 million in state income taxes.

But the added value of healthcare workers’ care, compassion and commitment is immeasurable. Those dedicated individuals serve more than 18 million hospital patients each year, including 3.7 million people who come to hospital emergency rooms in dire need of help. They will be there for you this holiday weekend, as they are every day of the year.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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Donate Blood: There is No Replacement for This Natural Gift

The miracles of modern science! Scientists have crafted artificial hearts and joints, artificial sugar to flavor our food, artificial grass for our sports arenas and even this week, there’s news of an artificial hamburger grown in a laboratory. But there’s one precious commodity in which scientists have been unable to match the real thing, and that’s blood. About 5 million people receive blood transfusions in the United States each year. They are accident victims, cancer patients, burn victims and others who depend on this vital natural resource.

Unfortunately, the supply of donated blood in New Jersey has not kept pace with demands. And that shortfall is especially apparent in the summer months. That’s why I urge you to join the State of New Jersey’s Summer Rush program now through Aug. 11. It’s a focused effort to raise awareness and increase blood donations in the Garden State during these crucial days of summer.

Did you know that:

  • About one in seven people entering the hospital needs blood.
  • One pint of blood from a single donor may save three lives.
  • Sixty percent of New Jerseyans are eligible to donate blood, yet only 3.6 percent donate on a routine basis.

Our state’s Department of Health has a great Web site that provides a list of Summer Rush donation locations, along with an interactive map so you can click on your home county to find the nearest, most convenient blood drive. Giving blood is quick and it saves lives. Consider giving and check out the Web site!

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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The Final Countdown

Oct. 1 is only a little over two months away and everyone is watching the clock. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has asked President Obama’s top aides to carry a calendar to keep track of this important date, which is when uninsured Americans can go to and sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”).  New Jersey’s health insurance exchange (the website) will be federally run, and we expect that when uninsured New Jerseyans access on Oct. 1, we will see five health plans offered at competitive prices to individuals and small businesses.

There are numerous efforts underway to promote enrollment both locally and nationally. The initial open enrollment period is from Oct. 1 - March 31, 2014, with coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2014. The White House even has a war room devoted to this rollout. To help prepare for the expected influx of additional patients, about $150 million was given to federally qualified health centers to help administer the rollout. NJHA is working with its regional Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services office to ensure that we are doing all we can to help facilitate enrollment, including applying for a grant to hire “Navigators” who will assist people with the enrollment process.

ObamaCare contains both challenges and promise. The challenges are many, and as always, our industry is rising to face them.  We need to embrace the promise of 32 million newly insured Americans and promote and support it. Many people are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the exchange works, and NJHA is making this a priority as well. We will continue to provide up-to-date information as well as tools and resources for healthcare providers and consumers to help them through this new process.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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