How To Stop Losing Patients To Larger Urban Hospitals: Improving Case Management

  • Healthcare Management
  • case management - Rural Hospitals
  • December 21, 2022

Large urban hospitals have the resources and personnel to attract patients from rural areas. Small hospitals can improve case management.

Urban vs Rural Hospitals

Large urban hospitals are often the preferred space for patients needing medical care. These hospitals have the resources to advertise services and provide treatment that many smaller rural hospitals can’t. As a result, rural hospitals are frequently losing patients to larger counterparts. Smaller hospitals are also more at risk of closing due to rising healthcare costs. Rural providers should focus on case management and other critical levers to retain patients.

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Small hospitals, big results

Rural providers play a big part in the health and wellness of many small communities. At the base level, these smaller facilities provide primary care for thousands of people that would otherwise not receive care. Rural hospitals also offer long-term care, rehabilitation, and many other services. There are also higher levels of trust in rural facilities as staff often live among the patients. Despite the benefits, the hospitals have limited resources and reduced infrastructure. Keeping up with larger hospitals is a continual challenge.

Case management in rural hospitals

Once a patient enters the emergency room and registers into the hospital system, the patient becomes a case. Case management aims to provide the patient with the best possible service in the shortest time possible. Effective case management takes evaluation, collaboration, planning, and speed. A case manager is assigned to the patient and helps with tasks like checking insurance records, negotiating benefits, and ordering specialist care. Case management becomes challenging when there are insufficient case managers or inept processes. The result is patients who leave the hospital against medical advice (AMA) or leave without being seen (LWBS). Others provide poor feedback, which affects the hospital’s ability to attract new patients. Here are some ways to improve case management.

Hospitalists and remote case managers

Proper case management requires competent managers to coordinate patients. Experts like hospitalists, for instance, can form part of the case management team. The hospitalist doctor can better assess the patient and recommend the best service quickly. Shifting a doctor to the case management team can improve efficiency. The team may also need additional case managers, and remote units can help if staffing is an issue. Leveraging an outsourced remote case management team can speed up the patient’s time in the hospital. Remote case managers are also usually cheaper, allowing hospitals to spend move on facilities and patient care.

Triage and EMRs

Rural hospitals can use triage systems to manage the flow of patients effectively. Triage ensures those most in need receive prompt attention. This system allows healthcare facilities to identify which patients need to be seen immediately and which can be safely delayed or redirected. Electronic medical records (EMRs) store patient health information and allow authorized healthcare providers to access the data as needed. Using EMRs improves the efficiency of healthcare delivery by allowing providers to access and share information quickly. In addition, these systems have been shown to reduce costs and improve the accuracy of patient data.

Better communication

Improved communication between primary care providers (PCPs) and specialists can help ensure that patients receive appropriate and timely treatment. One way to accomplish this is to establish a referral process between primary care physicians and local specialists, allowing PCPs to easily share information on a patient’s status. With such a system, providers can ensure patients with complex conditions receive proper medical care without having to travel to a larger facility.

Case management goes a long way

Implementing a case management system in rural hospitals can improve patient care and efficiency. Remote case management, the use of hospitalists, and improved efficiencies can increase health outcomes and decrease wait times. Additionally, this approach can increase patient satisfaction and reduce the administrative burden for rural hospitals. Implementing case management systems may be challenging, but with proper evaluation and planning, the results are exceptional.

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