It has often been said that good health is a priceless gift. Even so, we sometimes take good health for granted. Because good health care is important to have a good quality of life, it is often discussed and in recent years has been debated loudly in the public square due to availability and rising costs. The reality is that healthcare has become pricey.
Of note, the healthcare industry (also referred to as the medical industry) is one of the largest industries in the world. It is comprised of hospital services, medical and dental practices, medical equipment and supplies, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and related life sciences and all human health practitioners including doctors, nurses, therapists, etc. This industry is reported to be over $2.9 trillion and continues to grow year-over-year. And, healthcare is now the largest employer in the nation.
Reasons for the industry’s continued growth include an aging population requiring more quality care and driving increases costs, a higher prevalence of chronic diseases such as heart problems, cancer, diabetes and dementia, along with the use of more sophisticated and costly medicines.
What is a Healthcare Consulting Firm?
Supporting the giant healthcare industry is a $50+ billion healthcare services market which also continues to grow dramatically. The firms involved provide services, consulting advisement, and technology to healthcare firms but do not serve patients directly. A significant portion of the work of these services firms—including healthcare consulting, is “behind-the-scenes.” The firms’ individual and collective aims are to improve the health of the population, increase patient satisfaction and decrease healthcare costs.
The role of healthcare consulting firms is to focus on addressing business-related issues so that medical providers and institutions can focus on treating patients. They will help professionals and companies maximize each organization’s effectiveness and efficiency by providing advice and assistance on a broad range of business and operational issues and implementing strategic hospital marketing ideas to improve revenue.
Sometimes the necessary business solutions to improve a healthcare business are not readily apparent to those on-staff “in the trenches” and may require some new eyes as well as significant analysis, planning and development time that may not be able to be carved out of the demands of day-to-day patient care and regular functional duties.
What Do They Do?
Healthcare consulting companies work with healthcare organizations to tackle their demanding challenges. Those include addressing organization structure, communications processes, salaries, staffing, budgeting, advertising, safety, insurance programs and compliance, patient confidentiality, financial management, technology strategy, data management, and legal matters.
A physician and even an entire medical practice or hospital have many things to worry about in addition to the focal issues of good patient care. That includes business issues, human resources and hiring needs and concerns, accounting and bookkeeping needs and processes and even marketing issues. While an executive team and office management team will likely be well-equipped to handle some of these needs, the combination of business, healthcare and government compliance can be a challenging trio to deal with. In addition to providing some oversight and expertise for daily tasks, the consultant provides very valuable assistance with long-range goals, developments and activities.
Strategic assistance can include an expansion of offerings, developing new markets for services, expanding to new service territories or developing relationships with other organizations.
The consultative process requires a healthcare business to first contact a consulting organization to define the areas or problems that they want to have addressed. The consultants examine current practices, review available data and perform research related to the issues that were defined. After conducting their research and analysis, they provide a documented project report then hold oral findings and recommendations meetings. If the customer wishes, the consultants can be retained to assist with the implementation of the desired program, organization or process changes.
Healthcare providers such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, outpatient centers and outpatient labs may require all the above services, and also may need help with implementing or maintaining electronic health records. Medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies may need specific assistance with product development and government compliance.
Some examples of the outcomes of healthcare consulting might include:
- Identify ways to eliminate waste in the operation.
- Develop ways to expand patient care access and the patient care population.
- Reduce emergency room wait times.
- Develop new product design and service capabilities.
- Improve new registration and payment processes.
- Improve record-keeping and patient information processes
- Enhance treatment care for specific types of illnesses.
Healthcare consulting is clearly a broad and important field. A healthcare consulting organization can provide consultants who have expertise and who will deliver consulting services in one specific field or he/she might be a generalist and offer great service for many aspects of a healthcare business. Or, depending on the needs of the client, the consulting organization can deploy a team of specialists to focus on identified areas of the business and its operations. These areas can include strategic planning, finance, information technology, human resources management, and operations management.
As an example of a consulting organization, consider Community Hospital Corporation, founded in 1996 as a not-for-profit company whose mission is to help protect community hospitals and keep them community-operated and governed. Based in Plano, TX CHC owns, manages and consults with hospitals across the United States. The organization consults with and provides hospitals with the resources, experiences, perspectives and insights that they need to improve the quality of treatment outcomes, patient satisfaction and financial performance. CHS aims to offer practical solutions to keep community hospitals vibrant.
CHC management consulting services include:
- Productivity management
- Information technology
- Revenue cycle assessment
- Charge capture
- Coding audits and chargemaster
- Health plan contract evaluation
The consulting objective to improve healthcare performance requires a depth of healthcare experience and a focus on the big picture of healthcare operations as well as the ability to master the details of effective operations. The consulting process works well as the consultants work to find ways to improve the financial, operational, and clinical performance of a healthcare client. The process includes continued contact and improvement through routine meetings and consistent communications.
Work With a Consulting Firm
As in many other business categories and industries, healthcare enterprises use consulting organizations to help achieve strategic and operational improvement and long-lasting success by leveraging their expertise and independent perspectives. When you have questions about the future of your healthcare business, call Stoneridge Partners for all your answers.
For comprehensive and experienced healthcare consulting expertise, contact Community Hospital Corporation, based in Plano, TX. Our main focus is to guide, support and enhance community hospitals and healthcare providers, strengthening and sustaining local healthcare services.