Healthcare

How Consolidating Support Services Can Help Save Rural Hospitals

From cost issues to low patient volume, rural hospitals stand the risk of having to close their doors every day. In a study outlined by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, over 100 rural hospitals have shut down since 2013.

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans reside in rural areas, making access to hospitals and healthcare facilities critical but challenging. 

“If we’re losing 13 ½ rural hospitals per year, imagine how far residents in rural communities will have to travel for care. We want these facilities to be viable for the communities that they’re serving.” - Angel Camacho, Vice President, Business Development

So, how do rural facilities combat closures and improve care? Consolidating support service departments may be part of the solution.

What is a consolidated support service model?

In smaller, more rural hospitals, support service departments such as EVS and food and nutrition often operate as two separate and small teams. But the operating costs of these departments can be burdensome. Many larger facilities and systems find cost savings by outsourcing these departments to various vendors; that same model doesn’t always work for smaller hospitals.

But there’s still an opportunity to reduce costs while improving quality through outsourcing. Smaller hospitals can contract out services like EVS and food and nutrition by consolidating them into one unified team with a more streamlined approach to management.

This doesn't necessarily mean that line cooks are going to also be housekeepers. Consolidating means these teams are led by a single manager who’s able to create a unified culture that can better contribute to the hospital’s total care experience.

By combining these service teams, smaller hospitals can benefit from operational cost savings, draw on the experience and expertise of outsourced service providers, and ultimately make significant improvements in areas such as cleanliness, food quality, and patient satisfaction. 

Here are some of the benefits these facilities can see through a consolidated support service model.

Revenue

Combining support services isn’t exactly a “BOGO” sale, but it can still save facilities crucial operational dollars in the long run. In addition to the money facilities save, they can also see an increase in revenue.

In a recent study with DeSoto Memorial Hospital, a 49-bed hospital in Arcadia, Florida, results showed a 38% increase in retail sales after partnering with HHS and combining culinary and environmental services. This partnership helped develop relationships with members and organizations of the community, which created catering opportunities and use of the hospitals’ retail cafe space. 

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Food Quality

Due to limitations commonly faced by rural facilities, it’s a challenge to enhance food quality. By partnering and consolidating multiple services, facilities can develop a tailored plan specific to their needs and wants and, in turn, improve quality.

At DeSoto Memorial, HHS hand selected local farms and vendors ensuring sustainability and fresh, never frozen, ingredients. Not only did the new menu gain recognition from patients and visitors, it gained popularity within the community, providing meal options that otherwise may not be accessible. 

“HHS improved the services from prior performance levels — both outsourced and internal. They’ve reduced department expenses by 10% while improving quality. HHS has provided great performance in the administration and management of those two vital areas in our healthcare processes. We receive positive remarks from visitors on the cleanliness of the facility as well as high marks about the culinary services.” - Vince Sica, CEO, DeSoto Memorial Hospital

Operational Performance

High turnover and operational performance can pose challenges for rural hospitals. By collaborating with an experienced partner with practices and standards in place, facilities can see an improvement in operational efficiency and patient satisfaction.

Prior to its partnership with HHS, DeSoto Memorial’s MedSurg and ICU units posted turnaround times of 45-60 minutes. After integrating HHS environmental services, times nearly decreased by 30-40 minutes, a time difference crucial for a rural facility.

Team Member Satisfaction

With limited access to resources and high turnover rates, rural hospitals often see low team member satisfaction and morale. With a consolidated partnership, it’s proven to be easier to provide a hands-on approach to learning and development.

At DeSoto Memorial, leaders worked to build authentic relationships with team members, encouraged advancement opportunities within the organization, and created a safe environment for team members to voice opinions and concerns. Through this, HHS has maintained a 98.87% team member satisfaction score.