Tenet’s patient volumes face sustained pressure

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/tenets-patient-volumes-face-sustained-pressure/549171/

Image result for headwinds

Dive Brief:

  • Tenet Health reported Monday patient volumes continue to slide for both inpatient and outpatient units for the fourth quarter and full-year. Looking at volumes on a same facility basis, which accounts for the sale of facilities, total admissions declined nearly 3% in the fourth quarter compared to 2017 and fell nearly 2% in 2018 compared to 2017. Still, the hospital operator beat analyst expectations for its fourth quarter revenue and earnings per share.
  • Hospital segment fourth quarter revenue fell nearly 8% to $3.8 billion from 2017 due to hospital sales last year and the California Provider Fee program. The ambulatory segment reported a modest increase in revenue to $554 million. And client losses in the Conifer RCM segment, which Tenet is looking to sell, caused revenue to dip nearly 6% compared with the fourth quarter in 2017.
  • Overall, for the full year, revenue declined nearly 5% from 2017, while net income improved to $111 million compared to a net loss of $704 million in 2017

Dive Insight:

Hospitals throughout the country continue to face a number of headwinds affecting patient volumes, particularly inpatient admissions. But Tenet reported volume declines for nearly every patient measure, including outpatient visits. 

Tenet’s competitor CHS also reported a drop in total admissions for the year, although CHS’ was much steeper.

While analysts with Jefferies said the softening of patient volumes for Tenet was of concern, the company also delivered strong payer-mix growth and increased hospital profit margins, which underscores “(management’s) progress in delivering cost efficiencies,” the investment bank’s analysts wrote in a note.

CEO Ronald Rittenmeyer told investors Tuesday the company is entering 2019 with a renewed sense of urgency around volume growth. Tenet’s chief operating officer will be tasked with improving organic growth at the system’s hospitals, he said.

Rittenmeyer also outlined the priorities for 2019, which include expanding its ambulatory business, adding new physicians and improving operations to win over patient loyalty. He added the company will look to develop its brand image by delivering the “same unified message” in advertising in its markets around the country.

Tenet disclosed it may have found a buyer or partner for its Conifer business, though executives could not offer any specifics. “We have recently entered into exclusivity with one of the parties that has been engaging with us. While there can be no assurance that this negotiation will result in a transaction we are very pleased with this progress,” Rittenmeyer said.

Tenet also released its guidance for 2019. It expects to generate revenue between $18 billion and $18.4 billion while its window for net income is expected to be between $15 million and $115 million.

Rittenmeyer called 2018 “a year of significant change for the company,” and pledged “additional progress in each of our business segments in 2019 in line with our plan to deliver long-term sustainable growth.”