• Georgia’s critical access hospitals: Financial performance and process improvement

      Mase, William; Apenteng, Bettye; Carhuff, Lisa; Hanna, Mark; Boakye, Kwabena; Kimsey, Linda; Opoku, Samuel; Owens, Charles; Tedders, Stuart; Whaley, Patricia; et al. (2017)
      Background: Georgia’s Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) are in crisis. Within the last 2 years, four CAHs have closed their doors due to failed financial and operational performance. Evidence points to the risk that several more are on the brink of closure. CAH closures have far-reaching impact on residents. Negative impacts include the extra distance that patients must travel to seek care, the displacement of health professionals and the unravelling of the entire fabric of the communities these hospitals serve. We hope to help participants understand the financial and operational challenges of CAHs, and to identify realistic strategies to enhance the resilience of these hospitals. Methods: The Georgia Southern team worked with a cohort of CAHs across the state of Georgia to identify financial and operational best practices. Year 1 of this project focused on data collection, analysis and benchmarking. Year 2 is currently focused on performance improvement through Lean Six Sigma. Results: CAHs face financial constraints due to factors such as low volume, declining market share, unfavorable payer mix, challenges relating to collections, and difficulties in recruiting providers. CAHs in Georgia performed more poorly on the financial indicators assessed, in comparison to respective national medians. Many CAHs in our cohort are better organized to deal with crises – utilizing strong executive and bureaucratic structures – than to pursue ongoing improvement through employee empowerment and a process focus. Conclusions: Improvements in the operational and financial management practices of Georgia’s CAHs may significantly improve performance. Evidence-based strategies for operational and financial improvement are vital to sustainability. Opportunities exist for collaboration between public health systems and rural hospitals, including CAHs in assuring healthcare access for rural populations.
    • Solo practice physicians in Georgia

      Mutiso, Fedelis; Akowuah, Emmanuel; Opoku, Samuel; Apenteng, Bettye; Georgia Southern University (Georgia Public Health Association, 2017)
      Background: Office-based physicians can practice in a solo or group setting. Solo physician practices are staffed by a single physician who is responsible for all the care of the patients. Physicians in solo practices are also responsible for the infrastructure, personnel and investment cost of their practices. Further, evidence suggests that physicians in solo practices are more likely to be dissatisfied with their medical career compared to those in group practices. Given these challenges, current trend suggests a shift away from solo physician practices. However, there are still physicians in solo practices in Georgia but little is known about them. This study attempts to characterize the physicians working in solo practices and in so doing, add to the growing knowledge of the healthcare workforce in Georgia. Methods: The 2014 Physician Compare data were used for this study. This database contains information on individual physician level characteristics including gender, credential, primary specialty and practice type. The data were linked to the 2014 Area Resource File to provide information on the rural/urban location of physician practices. Physician practices were classified as rural or urban based on the Economic Research Service classification. Chi square and t-tests were carried out to examine the characteristics of physicians practicing in solo practices. Statistical analyses were conducted in StataMP 14. Results: Of the 13,499 Georgia physicians studied, 1448 physicians were in solo practices. The majority of these physicians were in urban areas (78.30%; p<0.001), male (72.18% p<0.001), had primary care specialties (46.31% p<0.001) and more experience in practice (27.6 years; p<0.001). In addition, almost three quarters did not use electronic health records (71.97% p<0.001) and the majority did not report on quality measures to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (66.7%; p<0.001). Conclusions: There are a large number of physicians in solo practices in Georgia. Given the challenges facing these physicians, it is important for Georgia to consider approaches to decrease the burden on physicians working in solo practices.