5 CFO-Friendly Pediatric Care Strategies

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , December 15, 2010
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This was originally published in the December issue of HealthLeadersmagazine.

Hospitals are establishing more pediatric surgery centers as a service line to encompass the multifaceted nature of childhood illnesses and improve efficiency and outcomes. A strategy of consolidating services, especially with minimally invasive practices, is setting the groundwork for more flexibility in the care of children and increased revenues for healthcare providers. As a result, there is enhanced support for patients and parents, and improved data collection in evaluation and pain treatment, as well as increased efficiency.

Various hospitals are using different techniques to enhance their financial position as well as better serve patients in a timelier manner. The Akron Children's Hospital initiated a Lean program to evaluate deficiencies in its children's surgery unit and was able to cancel a $3.5 million expansion by revamping its structure, according to Mark A. Watson, president of the 253-bed hospital.

"The hospital couldn't keep up with the demand for clean surgical instruments in a growing surgical population," he says. By not keeping pace, other elements within surgery began to collapse. "The surgery schedules were becoming completely messed up, and then it had a domino effect. It seemed like everything started to fail."

The hospital shelved the expansion plan and instead adopted cost-saving and quality-improvement measures used for years in the manufacturing industry, particularly by the Japanese automaker Toyota. 
With improved procedures, "we have improved patient wait times and have reduced canceled surgeries that occurred because surgical equipment wasn't there," Watson says. "The center of everything we do is about the patient. And it is working."

Minimally invasive surgical practices and specialty services in pediatric care are becoming key niche programs for hospitals to reach improved patient outcomes as well as satisfactory hospital fiscal bottom lines.

The Children's Hospital in Denver has steadily increased the number of laparoscopic procedures performed each year, among many complex procedures done almost exclusively in a minimally invasive manner at the 253-bed facility, according to Frederick "Fritz" Karrer, interim surgeon in chief at the hospital.

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