Healthcare News & Insights

Patients, not paperwork: 3 ways to take advantage of CMS’ reduced burdens

Regulations are created for a reason – keeping patients safe and providing quality care. Today, physicians and facilities are looking for ways to reduce costs and save time, while still providing quality care. In this guest post, Larry Lacombe, VP of program development, support and FM compliance at a company specializing in facilities management, safety, environment of care, emergency management and compliance, offers a systematic approach to find which CMS burden reductions are best for your patients.

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Compliance requirements and regulations in the healthcare industry are vital. Regulations strengthen patient safety, measure quality and safety of care, and hold healthcare providers accountable to their patients and the community they serve. Healthcare providers must meet federal regulations or face severe penalties. Due to this importance, regulation and accreditation take a great deal of physicians’ time – Health Affairs reports physicians in four common specialties spend, on average, 785 hours per physician and more than $15.4 billion dealing with the reporting of quality measures.

However, ensuring facilities are meeting and exceeding standards of patient care shouldn’t be a burden. Last year, CMS proposed a rule to remove “unnecessary, obsolete or excessively burdensome Medicare compliance requirements for healthcare facilities,” in their appropriately titled initiative, “Patients Over Paperwork.” Collectively, these updates would save healthcare providers an estimated $1.12 billion annually.

It’s a given that in health care, patients come first. Every action taken by a provider or facility should ultimately benefit the patient. This of course includes regulation, but when the barriers for documenting said regulations are reduced, facilities will have more money and time to get things done. Ask yourself, “What can we do in our facility to improve the patient experience?” Take a systematic approach into what’s important for your patients by weighing the best uses of cost and time savings from CMS’ reduced burdens.

Reinvest in projects that benefit patients

Facilities often focus on responding to new requirements. Case in point, CMS initially found “3,040 mentions of burden” when their Patients Over Paperwork initiative launched. That’s quite a lot of points to respond to. With CMS working to actively remove these irrelevant and excessively burdensome requirements, “CMS projects savings of nearly $5.2 billion and a reduction of 53 million hours through 2021.” This is a savings of 2,000 hours per year.

With the extra time and money saved from reduced burdens, you can imagine the number of projects your healthcare facility could take on during the year. But when your facility is used to responding to new regulations, it can be paralyzing to think of everything you could do to support patients. It’s crucial that this time, money and energy be re-invested back into the organization, but where do you begin?

Start from a patient-care standpoint. Explore the systems and procedures that’ll heavily focus on patient care within your facility. This can be anything from updating décor to be more aesthetically pleasing to a major infrastructure investment your facility has been putting off due to financial burdens.

Make ambulatory care strategy a priority

Times are changing throughout the healthcare industry. Many hospitals are beginning to shift their focus from hospital-centered care to ambulatory care. As patients spend more time in outpatient care, hospitals may lose revenue from a reduced in-patient model. With CMS’ reduced burdens, however, healthcare providers will be able to make ambulatory care strategy a priority.

CMS claims their changes will “streamline hospital outpatient and ambulatory surgical center requirements for conducting comprehensive medical histories and physical assessments.” A comprehensive ambulatory care strategy can be costly – the inclusion of rehabilitation, consultation, treatment and additional services all in one place only adds to a hospital’s growing bills. Now, when a healthcare organization arrives at CMS’ savings of time and money, this strategy will no longer seem out of reach. Focusing on this “care of the future” will continue to put patients’ needs first, while both retaining current clients and attracting new ones for years to come.

Establish efficiency throughout multiple hospitals

CMS notes many of their new proposals will “simplify and streamline Medicare’s conditions of participation, conditions for coverage and other requirements for participation for facilities.” Additional proposals will “allow multi-hospital systems to have unified and integrated Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement programs for all of their member hospitals.” Keeping efficiency at the forefront of patient care is a goal of CMS’ plans to reduce burdens.

As healthcare systems grow and add new facilities, the tech at disparate locations can take longer to unify. You know it must be done, but is the time it’ll take to merge all the systems worth the disruption? With CMS’ reduced burdens, they are aiming to give facilities back more time, as well as dollars, to spend on these types of investments. Unifying measurements and assessments across multiple healthcare facilities can help teams remain ahead of the curve with new regulations that do emerge, and metrics tracked on one unified scale. Investing in streamlined systems will also make your facilities run more efficiently, further saving time in the long run. Focusing CMS’ saved time back into the patient experience is crucial. Patients come first, and fully efficient departments achieve this goal.

Healthcare facilities must take advantage of the time and cost savings of CMS’ newly reduced burdens. From focusing on ambulatory care to unifying systems across multiple facilities to reinvesting in the projects that improve the patient care, CMS’ proposals to lift unnecessary regulations should relieve burdens on all associates in the healthcare system. After all, less red tape means less paperwork, and more time for the patients who matter most.

Larry Lacombe is VP of program development, support & FM compliance at Medxcel, a company specializing in facilities management, safety, environment of care, emergency management and compliance. Medxcel provides healthcare service support products and drives in-house capabilities, savings and efficiencies for healthcare organizations. 

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