As America’s hospitals and healthcare systems face mounting threats to their long-term fiscal health, healthcare technology managers find themselves eyeing an unprecedented opportunity to help their respective C-suite leaders minimize the hurt and hasten the healing.
Such was the organizing insight behind a May 23 webinar during which three presenters suggested ways to strengthen the healthcare technology management (HTM) profession so the profession can help strengthen healthcare. The event was organized by AAMI and ECRI Institute as part of the groups’ recognition of Healthcare Technology Management Week.
“Hospitals are trying to figure out how they can rejuvenate [decades-old] construction,” said Brian Poplin, president of clinical technology services for Philadelphia-based Aramark, who zeroed in on big-picture concerns in the C-suite. “They’re trying to understand the growth of community care. They’re adding physician practices. All of those things are putting financial pressures on hospitals. They’re really having to find new ways to reduce costs and increase efficiencies.”
Poplin explained that, in a time of such seismic shift, the opportunity for healthcare technology managers is to understand “how do we bucket the challenges that hospital executives are facing, and how do we understand what we can do to impact the challenges?”
Noting that healthcare represents some 17 percent of the U.S.’s gross domestic product, he pointed out that the overall industry has become a political lightening rod, with healthcare reform only the most conspicuous manifestation of the development.
“First and foremost, you’ve got to remember that hospitals—whether they’re for-profit or not-for-profit—are about providing quality care to their constituencies in their communities. And we’re a big part of that,” he said. In order to contribute efficiently and in a cost-effective manner, he added, healthcare technology managers must appreciate that this key segment of the economy is marked by “a lot of competing priorities, a lot of different organizations that are engaged in transactions with the healthcare community. Our healthcare CEOs are struggling with that, and they’re struggling with it mightily.”
Poplin enumerated a number of high-visibility factors piling on the pressure—increasing transparency around care quality thanks to the Internet, tightening requirements for regulatory compliance and, of course, plummeting revenues.
“Based on what happens with some of the Supreme Court issues over the next 30 to 45 days, what we may see is an industry that’s going to have to survive on a significantly changing reimbursement model,” he said. “Virtually every CEO I talk to is forecasting that they’re going to have to figure out how to run their hospitals on a payment rate that is 10 percent less than what Medicare currently reimburses them. That’s a huge, huge shift.”
Poplin then recommended ways to align HTM functions with several C-suite priorities as identified in a 2011 survey of members of the American College of Healthcare Executives:
- By centralizing management of vendors and service contracts, HTM can help the C-suite tackle financial challenges—executives’ No. 1 issue, according to the ACHE survey.
- By ensuring hospital compliance with device recalls, accreditation surveys and other regulatory matters, HTM can assist the C-suite in addressing patient safety and quality (No. 3).
- By coordinating technology assets to maximize utilization and throughput, HTM can help improve physician-hospital relations and patient satisfaction (Nos. 6 and 7).
- By performing strategic capital-asset management for equipment acquisition and replacement, HTM can help hospitals step up their game on technology implementation (No. 8).
- By supporting hospital staff with on-the-spot technical expertise, HTM can help address staffing shortages (No. 9).
The HTM profession has a chance to help healthcare leaders strengthen provider institutions “because we are in the hospital every day,” said Poplin, “and because we’re rooted in sharing the hospital’s mission to keep the devices there for what’s critically important: creating a great experience for saving the lives of our patients and creating a great healthcare system.”
Confident, assertive—and influential
James P. Keller, Jr., ECRI’s vice president for health technology evaluation and safety, laid out ways the HTM profession might transition “from unsung hero to MVP.”