What a charming reconciler and peacemaker money is!

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William Makepeace Thackery’s seminal 1847 novel Vanity Fair tells the story of a ruthless social climber, whose downfall teaches her to accept quite the contrary view of the above quote from the book. And, yet, coming off this past year of a spiraling economy, any increased revenues do seem to provide some solace for industry and hospital administrators alike.

Thomson Reuters published some promising results this week, finding a broad-based financial recovery for hospitals of all classes. Based on the balance sheets of 400 U.S. hospitals, the median profit margin of U.S. hospitals increased from near zero in the third quarter of 2008 to more than 8 percent in the second quarter of 2009. The report also found that liquidity increased slightly, as did admissions.

Interestingly, the Healthcare Financial Management Association released a report suggesting that most healthcare facilities lack high-performance revenue cycle strategies and made several recommendations for retaining revenue on the staff level. Based on a large spectrum of U.S. hospitals—over 5,000—the association found that facilities with high levels of employee turnover saw revenues diminish and high-performance sites were more likely to offer incentive-based programs for staff.

Also evaluating in-hospital expenses, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed that end-of-life hospitalization costs totaled nearly $20 billion for 2007. The agency found that the average cost of a hospital stay ending in death was 2.8 times higher than for a patient discharged alive, due to the longer period of time in which the patient is typically admitted. Cardiovascular disease was not among the leading causes of in-hospital deaths.

To return to the idea of money as a reconciler, a cardiologist filed a civil suit against his employer, Lahey Clinic, for wrongful terminatation, while two medical device makers, Boston Scientific and AtriCure, settled with the Department of Justice to reconcile their involvement for allegedly unlawful business tactics.

As Thackeray’s protagonist Becky Sharp is slow to learn her lesson—like so many of us—about striving for money, she unabashedly proclaims that she “could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year.”

Please look for our coverage of the American Heart Association (AHA) conference, slated to begin on Monday.

On these topics, or any others, feel free to contact me.

Justine Cadet