It didn't take me long to come up with a recurring theme of the Healthcare Financial Management Association's Annual National Institute here in Las Vegas: efficiency.
Hospitals are going to have to get a lot more efficient under healthcare reform, there's no question about that. The main reason is that there is no reason to believe that reimbursement is going to get any better than it is right now. We may have finally reached the breaking point for three key stakeholders: the government, the patient, and the employer.
As I walked around and talked to people, in the exhibition hall and at the breakout sessions here, efficiency of one kind or another is all anyone wanted to talk about. Getting your length of stay down by using hospitalists was one person's crusade. From another, overcoming the challenge of collecting the patients' portion of the bill when they present for service.
Another, the use of self-serve patient kiosks to improve satisfaction and cut back on staffing needs. Still another, the use of huge amounts of data on physician practice patterns that allow management to have difficult conversations with physicians and arm them with the information that proves some docs are much less efficient than others. Still another person wanted to talk about expanding the use of physician extenders to do more of the routine patient care work, freeing up docs to do more high-value work.
There are dozens more ways vendors and educators are trying to move the needle on hospital efficiency. As I moved through the Venetian/Palazzo complex to get back to my room to write this blog, I marveled at perhaps the epitome of efficiency, the Vegas casino, in this case, the Venetian/Palazzo. Huge numbers of people come through this place every day. And everything you see, do, and hear around here is aimed at most efficiently separating you from your money.
It's a different kind of efficiency, sure, but don't think that every piece of your experience here is aimed at getting you from one place to another quickly and with as little effort on your part as possible.
From a bank of eight elevators serving every 15 or so floors here, to the ease of purchasing tickets to shows, to the slot machines that are everywhere, they want you to spend, and spend fast, and their mission in life here seems to revolve around removing any possible impediment to your spending that money. They know they only have you here for a short time, so any time spent waiting in line or getting from one place to another is time you won't be spending money. So they make everything easy.
Hospitals could take a lesson.