4 Hospital Cost Reduction Ideas & Strategies

4 Hospital Cost Reduction Ideas & Strategies

In the past, hospitals were reimbursed at a line-item level—so there was a charge associated with each item used or service provided that was billed to either the patient or the insurer. This incentivized performing procedures and tests, as each of them were billable.

Fast forward to today’s healthcare climate, and you’ll find that hospitals are now paid a certain amount (by the insurer, insured, or government) for each defined diagnosis-related group (DRG). It is then up to the hospital to determine how to spend that fee, keeping in mind that the desired outcome is improving the patient’s health status. This payment method began with government programs such as Medicare but has now expanded into the private insurance market.

With this in mind, there are a number of ways hospitals can save money today, ranging from proper resource utilization to strategic organization. We’ll address four of those hospital cost reduction ideas below.

4 Hospital Cost Reduction Ideas & Strategies

1. Examine appropriate labor use in different scenarios.

This is not a reduction in labor but a close examination of how labor is used in different situations. For example, use nurse practitioners or physician assistants (physician extenders) instead of physicians in urgent care clinics. Extenders can perform services at a much lower cost in situations where an MD is not warranted—for example, tending to patients who have minor healthcare issues like a cold. In medical research, laboratory assistants can be used to prepare specimen and manage quality control functions, allowing the more expensive technologists to focus on evaluating the data and ensuring quality results.

2. Re-evaluate supply costs for hidden savings.

  • Blood is an expensive, limited resource that can cause complications, and the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) published recommendations in 2016 to lower the thresholds for which blood is given. Adoption of these new standards can have significant cost reductions and patient outcome effects.
  • Create an antibiotic stewardship program. Using the correct antibiotic at the correct time can reduce the length of time the patient is in the hospital, which decreases labor, supply, and drug costs. Another hospital cost reduction idea is to consider evaluating high-cost pharmaceuticals against generic (or less expensive) drugs.
  • Negotiate with the supplier to lower the price of surgical implants. A single hip joint can be in the tens of thousands of dollars—so savings in this area can be significant.

3. Assess procedures performed for possible cost reductions.

Doing repetitive, duplicate, or daily laboratory or radiology testing can be very costly. To cut back on these costs, consider ordering multiple-day orders at a single session.

Furthermore, examine your hospital’s use of “convenience testing”—i.e., performing a test or procedure during a hospital stay rather than in an outpatient setting simply because the patient is there. This can increase costs related to inpatient care (supplies, room, support staff, and scheduling delays).

To find opportunities for savings here, you need an effective tracking system. Be sure that all tests given can be seen by the physicians or extenders responsible for treatment and be sure you can track why a test is given (as sometimes an inexpensive or effective convenience test is warranted).

4. Track quality measures and take steps to improve deficiencies.

Improving the quality of processes that lead to issues like catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) and central-line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) is not only critical for patient health and safety—it’s also a hospital cost reduction strategy. Additionally, improving the identification and rapid treatment of sepsis and reducing readmissions for such issues are critical for cost saving. These initiatives are tied to government reimbursements from federal programs. Better quality measures in this area will result in higher reimbursements.

Don’t forget about your healthcare strategy!

To successfully achieve these objectives and others, you need a unified strategy in place. Creating a Balanced Scorecard strategy map is one of the best ways to achieve that. It allows you to communicate your organizational goals and engage your team in a clear way.

4 Hospital Cost Reduction Ideas & Strategies

Ted Jackson

Co-Founder & Alabama Native

Ted is a Founder and Managing Partner of ClearPoint Strategy and leads the sales and marketing teams.