Don’ Throw It Away!!! Many hospitals find themselves at a crossroads with an outpatient wound center that no longer works the way it once did, or simply is not living up to it’s potential. Before you throw it out of your hospital, there may be some simple steps to take that may start the process of getting the program back on track.
Here at Wound Care Advantage, we have had fantastic success at helping hospitals turn around struggling wound centers. Many times the call we receive is from a CFO or business development director telling us that their program is simply not working financially. Collections are important, however, revenue is usually the last indicator of a wound center that is in trouble. Here is a brief list of five key actions to take that can help turn around an existing hospital-based outpatient wound center.
5. Start Where Your Patients Will: Your first step should be to ask the people staffing the front desk at your hospital to direct you to the wound center. If you are involved in the program and the front desk people do not know who you are, you are already off to a bad start. If they have no idea where it is, you are doing even worse. If they then ask what is a “Hyperbolic chamber?”, you better get back to your office and start working on a hospital wide education plan. Make sure the hospital operator has your extension and is clearly aware of what your department does. Verify you have an internet presence. (when is the last time you called information for a phone number?) Start outside of your hospital and try to find your way to the center using just signage. If you cannot do this, speak with your facilities manager to add signs directing patients to your program. This signage does double duty as an advertisement that you exist to the general hospital patient population.
4. Educate Your Cheerleaders: You have hundreds if not thousands of referral sources at your fingertips everyday, however, many center managers never take advantage of this well educated, passionate group of cheerleaders. Who are they? The employees of your hospital. Make sure that you invite every department to visit your center. Take advantage of inter-hospital newsletters and education opportunities. Be certain to have a presence in every new employee orientation. Take extra care to specifically target the volunteers of your hospital. These unsung heroes often have friends and family that could use your help. They also believe in what the hospital does enough to volunteer countless hours. Turn them into your strongest advocates by educating them to what you do. (Offering doughnuts every once in a while doesn’t hurt either!)
3. Energize the Physicians: A wound center rises and falls on the shoulders of your physicians. If their interests and goals are not aligned with those of the program, your center will simply not succeed. When is the last time you had a full meeting with all physicians to discuss patient outliers, best practices, concerns, or simply wound care in general? If it has been some time, get all team members together and review the mission of the program, process, and approach with everyone. Discuss what is working and what is not. Are patients being seen aggressively? Are advanced therapies being considered? What could be improved? Once your physicians and team are back rowing in the same direction, keep it up. You should have a meeting with education monthly, and allow for real spirited discussions regarding how best to treat patients. The results are worth the effort.
2.Make Sure You Have The Write Stuff Compliance, reimbursement, coding, outcome tracking, benchmarks and performance improvement. All of these things have one vital common element, documentation! It didn’t happen if it wasn’t documented. If it wasn’t documented, it can’t be tracked. If it can’t be tracked we have no way to know if a wound center is doing well or poorly! Many centers start off with a great documentation plan, however, over the years they may not have updated forms and other documents to be in compliance with changes to CMS, LCD’s, or federal regulations. First, ask your HIM and compliance departments to perform a review on the documentation forms you are using. Second, review your documentation plan with your staff and physicians from top to bottom. Sometimes a quick review will present simple fixes. Third, determine if it is time to switch to an Electronic Medical Record. Which leads us to the number 1 thing to do:
1. Get Help: There are great partners in the field that can help review your program or help implement tools needed to turn it around. (Wound Care Advantage comes to mind!) Often times a full review of your revenue cycle and simply implementing and training your team to a better flow utilizing an EMR can turn around a center almost overnight. Working with a partner on a short term basis as a consultant or an annual contract may give your center the tools it needs without giving up a large portion of the revenue it hopes to regain. You also need a way of seeing how your program is doing every day. WCA has developed a dashboard that gives you a clear idea of where you are at, and where you need to be daily. Again, you cannot improve what you cannot track.
These few items may help if you are scratching your head trying to figure out the first steps in getting things back on track. However, if you are curled up in a fetal position rocking back and forth while humming to yourself, you should probably just call us directly!