For the past three years, Kaufman Hall has surveyed hospitals and health systems on their performance improvement and cost transformation efforts. This year, these efforts met an historic challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic’s impacts have been severe. Entire service lines were shut down as state governments required or strongly encouraged suspension of elective and non-emergency procedures, in part to conserve critical resources—including personal protective equipment—in the early days of the pandemic. Supply chains were disrupted, with organizations that had come to rely on “just in time” inventory practices scrambling to secure the resources needed to ensure the safety of patients and frontline clinical staff. The healthcare workforce came under incredible pressure, confronting a crisis that threatened to overwhelm the health system’s capacity to treat patients.
In a year unlike any other, our annual survey moved away from the questions of earlier years. We have focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on hospital and health system performance. Then, through interviews with survey respondents on the front line of the battle with COVID-19, we have sought to understand how health system leaders are seeking to find a path forward amid uncertainty that will likely stretch through 2021, if not beyond.
Key findings from this year’s report include the following:
- Financial viability. Approximately three fourths of survey respondents are either extremely (22%) or moderately (52%) concerned about the financial viability of their organization in the absence of an effective vaccine or treatment.
- Operating margins. One third of our respondents saw year-over-year operating margin declines in excess of 100% from Q2 2019 to Q2 2020.
- Volumes. Volumes in most service areas are recovering slowly. In only one area—oncology—have a majority of our respondents seen volumes return to more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels.
- Expenses. A majority of survey respondents have seen their greatest percentage expense increase in the costs of supplying personal protective equipment. Nursing staff labor is in second place, cited by 34% of respondents as their most significant area of expense increase.
- Healthcare workforce. Three fourths of survey respondents have increased monitoring and resources to address staff burnout and mental health concerns.
- Telehealth. More than half of our respondents have seen the number of telehealth visits at their organization increase by more than 100% since the pandemic began. Payment disparities between telehealth and in-person visits are seen as the greatest obstacle to more widespread adoption of telehealth.
- Competition. Approximately one third of survey respondents believe the pandemic has affected competitive dynamics in their market by making consumers more likely to seek care at retail-based clinics.
A former worker at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tenn., was charged with stealing nearly $800,000 worth of medical supplies from the hospital and selling them online for his personal benefit, Williamson Source reported.
Former system coordinator Tommy John Riker allegedly stole $798,265 worth of supplies from the hospital between 2017 and 2019. He worked in the hospital’s supply chain department and was responsible for purchasing and managing items in the hospital’s inventory control system.
His job allowed him to steal items from the hospital’s inventory and manipulate the inventory to make it seem the supplies were given to staff, according to investigators from Tennessee’s Comptroller’s Office, the Williamson Source reported.
The stolen supplies include needles, wound dressings and surgical dressings, according to the comptroller’s report.
Mr. Riker was indicted on one count of theft over $250,000 and 54 counts of money-laundering.
Read the full article here.
Trinity Health Michigan is raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour for hospital and medical group employees, the organization announced in an Oct. 19 news release.
The wage increase will affect 2,100 full- and part-time employees at Norton Shores-based Mercy Health and Canton-based Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, and their medical groups, IHA, St. Joe’s Medical Group and Mercy Health Physician Partners.
Employees affected by the wage increase include non-union environmental services workers, medical assistants, patient companions, food and retail services and transporters.
Trinity Health Michigan officials said an additional 6,000 employees making between $15 to $19 an hour will also “have their wage adjusted in order to maintain meaningful distinctions in pay.” They said the additional wage increases are to improve pay for a large number of employees, and help retain and attract talented workers.
“Our dedicated and compassionate employees are at the heart of what makes our health ministry remarkable,” Rob Casalou, president and CEO of Trinity Health Michigan, said in a statement. “As we continue to face the COVID pandemic and work together to address economic challenges, we want to recognize our employees whose commitment and talent have enabled us to care for our communities during this challenging time. These investments in our people are part of an overall philosophy to offer equitable and market-competitive pay and benefits for our staff, as together we build a strong future.”
Trinity Health Michigan officials said eligible employees are still slated to receive their annual wage increases for 2020-2021, and no increases are planned in medical health plan premium contributions for employees for 2021. Additionally, they said the base minimum of the employer’s core contributions will climb from $1,200 to $1,400 for calendar year 2021.
Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System are part of Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health’s Michigan region. Mercy Health serves the Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Shelby and the Lakeshore communities, and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System has hospitals in Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Howell, Livonia and Pontiac, according to Trinity Health’s website.
In a court filing, Einstein Healthcare Network warned that a move by the Federal Trade Commission to block its merger with Jefferson Health could lead to a “death spiral” at its Philadelphia flagship safety-net hospital, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.
In court documents opposing an FTC analysis of the merger, Einstein said that its financial condition has deteriorated since 2017, resulting in operating losses averaging about $30 million per year.
Einstein said it will incur even greater losses, largely because of the challenging payer mix and large underinsured or uninsured population of its flagship Philadelphia medical center.
Without a merger, “Einstein [would have to] dramatically cut its services at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, leading to job losses and even further reductions in maintenance and needed investment, precipitating a ‘death spiral’ that would jeopardize access to health care for many of Philadelphia’s underserved residents,” Einstein wrote in the documents, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.
The FTC announced in February its intent to sue to block the proposed merger, arguing that combining the two systems would reduce competition in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.
“Jefferson and Einstein have a history of competing against each other to improve quality and service,” the FTC said in February. “The proposed merger would eliminate the robust competition between Jefferson and Einstein for inclusion in health insurance companies’ hospital networks to the detriment of patients.”
Einstein and Jefferson Health countered that a combined system still would face competition from other hospitals and operate in a challenging market dominated by one healthcare insurer, according to the report.
Here are nine hospitals and health systems with strong operational metrics and solid financial positions, according to reports from Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings.
1. St. Louis-based Ascension has an “AA+” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The system has a strong financial profile and a significant presence in several key markets, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects Ascension will continue to produce healthy operating margins.
2. Phoenix-based Banner Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch and S&P. Banner’s financial profile is strong, even taking into consideration the market volatility that occurred in the first quarter of this year, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects the system to continue to improve operating margins and to generate cash flow sufficient to sustain strong key financial metrics.
3. Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The health system has a good payer mix, a leading position in several of its markets and adequate margins to support its growth, Fitch said. The credit rating agency expects the system to maintain strong operating profitability.
4. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has an “Aa2” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s and an “AA” rating and stable outlook with S&P. The hospital has a strong market position and healthy liquidity, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency expects CHOP’s market position and brand equity will support its recovery from disruption caused by COVID-19.
5. Milwaukee-based Children’s Wisconsin has an “Aa3” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s and an “AA” rating and stable outlook with S&P. The health system has strong cash flow margins, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency expects the health system’s financial performance to remain solid, given its commanding market presence and demand for services.
6. Philadelphia-based Main Line Health has an “AA” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The credit rating agency expects the system’s operations to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic and for it to resume its track record of strong operating cash flow margins.
7. Midland-based MidMichigan Health has an “AA-” rating and stable outlook with Fitch. The system has generated healthy operational levels through fiscal year 2020, and Fitch expects it to continue generating strong cash flow.
8. Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Children’s Hospital has an “Aa2” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The system has a strong market position in pediatric services in Columbus and the broad central Ohio region, and its advanced research capabilities will support volume recovery from disruption caused by COVID-19, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency expects Nationwide Children’s margins to remain strong and for cost management initiatives and volume recovery to drive improvements.
9. Chicago-based Northwestern Memorial HealthCare has an “Aa2” rating and stable outlook with Moody’s. The health system had strong pre-COVID margins and liquidity, Moody’s said. The credit rating agency expects the system to maintain strong operating cash flow margins.