CLEVELAND, Ohio — To the new chief financial officer at Sisters of Charity Health System, hospitals looking to trim fat should look first at their emergency rooms.
“We have a growing population with no primary care doctor,” said Patrick McMahon, who started his job this week. “We need to deal with that issue. I’m not talking about Sisters of Charity, in particular. I just started here. But across all hospitals, it’s an issue.”
McMahon was the vice president for planning, audit and ambulatory operations at Southwest General Hospital in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. He spent five years running his own consulting firm, McMahon & Associates, and for 12 years before that was chief financial officer at Akron General Health System.
Now, he oversees the finances for the entire Sisters of Charity organization, which includes facilities in Cleveland, Canton and Columbia, S.C.
Hospitals are trying to better manage emergency rooms. Some systems demand up-front pay from patients who they don’t consider emergency cases but still want emergency care. These patients also get the option of appointments at a hospital clinic.
Some systems are creating clinical decision units for emergency patients who need long-term care, though won’t have to stay overnight.
McMahon said having primary-care physicians available and nearby is another solution. That way, patients with minor illnesses can be diverted out of emergency rooms.
“You don’t need all of that to take care of a sore throat,” McMahon said.
McMahon shares a common feeling among hospital executives: The financial situation involving health care and providers will “get worse before it gets better.” The tug of flattened reimbursements and the costs associated with many medical innovations will continue to stress the heath care system.
“There are less revenues coming into the hospital but costs are increasing because of the continuous new technologies that are coming in,” he said. “It’s great for the patient, but there’s a cost to that.”
McMahon expects to see some health care reform in Congress this year. “We have to get Congress to approve the stimulus package. That will increase money to the health-care industry and help compensate the growing number of uninsured.”