TUH avoids funding cut

The government cut Medicare funding for 721 hospitals.

After the federal government program aimed to reduce Medicare funding to hospitals with an unsatisfactory level of conditions and infections, 721 institutions suffered a 1 percent drop, including the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Temple University Hospital was able to stay off that list.

The Hospital-Acquired-Conditions Reduction Program seeks to reduce HACs, or infections patients contract while staying in the hospital. HACs are calculated and given scores based on three measures, Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections, Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections and “Serious Complications,” which includes bedsores and bloodstream infections after surgery.

According to Modern Healthcare, a healthcare trade publication whose target audience is executives in the field, “The HAC Reduction Program is part of a far-reaching effort that … aims to aggressively move the federal government toward paying for high performance rather than volume of services.”

Robert Lux, vice president and chief financial officer of Temple University Health System, said the healthcare industry is changing.

“It is trying to transform itself from an industry that just performs and provides volume-based services, more X-rays, more this, to an industry that is very interested and focused on outcomes and quality,” Lux said.

He said TUH has implemented new programs to prevent HACs, and increased its emphasis on sanitary measures like washing hands and closely monitoring patients with catheters to prevent central line infections.

One of the new programs TUH has created is the Accountable Care Unit Program, which teaches clinical professionals to work together as a team, as opposed to individually.

Of the measures the hospital has taken overall, Lux said “it has allowed Temple Hospital to move a little bit further, and maybe a little bit faster, on that transition to accountability and quality than maybe some other organizations.”

Ken Kaiser, Temple’s vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, attributed TUH’s stability to its partnership with the Commonwealth.

“We’ve always been that safety net hospital in North Philadelphia,” Kaiser said. “That has allowed us to get a lot of experience when we’re working with the commonwealth and the federal government in maximizing all of the reimbursement opportunities because we’ve been at it for so long.”

Despite Temple’s ability to hold onto its Medicare funding, there is always the fear that the hospital may not meet the necessary guidelines the next time around.

“The future of healthcare is such an uncertain area at this point,” Kaiser said. “Nobody has a crystal ball. All we can do is continue to leverage the knowledge and expertise that we have and make sure we’re trying to influence public policy as much as possible.”

Jenny Kerrigan can be reached at jennifer.kerrigan@temple.edu

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