Rise in patient volume having varied effects in healthcare industry


The increase in insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act is changing the landscape for healthcare providers. Positive and negative developments are arising from millions of previously uninsured people now having access to doctors and hospitals.

In Tennessee, Mountain States Health Alliance has been able to add more than 100 nurses since March as the volume of patients has increased significantly. Local news source the Johnson City Press reports that overall patient admissions have risen by approximately 4.7 percent, allowing the healthcare system serving Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia to reverse the shedding of jobs that ultimately saw some 650 clinical-side employees lose their positions.

The system of 14 hospitals is also dealing with some negative side effects, however. Because of reductions in Medicare reimbursements related to the ACA - money that is expected to be returned to healthcare providers by newly insured residents - Mountain States Health Alliance cut down on the administrative and corporate costs of operation, including approximately 160 positions in that area of the business. In this case, the ACA seems to be allowing more people to utilize healthcare services and has compensated for the decline in Medicare payments, but the long-term future of the system is unknown.

Emergency room volume may rise across the country
According to research from the American College of Emergency Physicians, 86 percent of doctors who work in emergency rooms expect to see a notable rise in the number of patients who use such a service due to increased access to healthcare. Part of the jump may have to do with patients finding doctors in general, as there is currently a shortage of physicians in many areas of the U.S. Additionally, some doctors don't accept Medicaid due to its low payouts, so some patients may have to resort to using emergency rooms for care. The general aging of the population is another factor to consider, as more conditions requiring emergency room care will develop.

More efficiency is needed
A reasonable outcome from the increase in patient volume and related decrease in Medicare revenues is a mixed bag of positives and negatives. Increased visits to doctors and emergency rooms may increase staff sizes, but fixed assets like the number of beds in a hospital may require that patients spend less time occupying these spaces. The point of emphasis is that changes are coming to healthcare systems across the country and care providers need to respond to them.

One area that is sometimes overlooked in overall healthcare management is the supply chain. While it has a direct impact on patient care - and the efficiency of the hospital or clinic involved - ways to improve the system and save money for use in other areas may not be an area of primary consideration. By implementing an improved hospital inventory management system such as JumpStock, administrators can reduce costs and improve efficiency, without having to cut any sort of service or staffing levels.

With cloud-based information storage and software that works on commercially available tablets and smartphones, this barcode inventory system has markedly low startup costs. Because mobile devices such as iPhones and Androids are used to scan and track stock levels, employees can use a tool that they're already familiar with and cut down significantly on implementation timelines, further boosting efficiency. These unique advantages come along with the ability to improve order compliance with GPOs, reduce or eliminate excess stock levels and carrying costs by using data to generate usage reports and drive down instances of stock outages as well.