Slower outpatient census results in net loss in February for Veterans Memorial Hospital; Programs for geriatric behavioral health and outpatient drug pricing currently in progress

by Brianne Eilers

After anticipating that the month of February would end up being a strong month financially for Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) in Waukon, outpatient revenue instead came in $300,000 under budget, leaving the hospital with a net loss of $71,761 for the month, according to information provided at the March 19 VMH Board of Trustees meeting. Year-to-date, the hospital is showing a profit of $50,454.

VMH Administrator Mike Myers noted that there were a few factors as to why the outpatient revenue was low for the month, with a major factor being inclement weather. Myers noted that some patient areas tend to see cancellations when the weather is bad and travel is difficult. There were also some providers and surgeons on vacation in February, and that also contributed to the lower outpatient revenue.

On the inpatient side, acute patient days volume was up 4.6% and skilled patient days were up 24.3%. Myers noted that the March outpatient census is looking better, but the inpatient census is a little slower.

In other matters, Myers stated that the Waukon City Council has been having some discussions on how the City can help recruit providers, and Myers said that the hospital “very much appreciates” those discussions and he’s looking forward to meeting with council members to discuss opportunities.

VMH is also looking into Senior Life Solutions, a program that is geared towards helping adults over the age of 65 to be able to cope with some of the mental health issues of aging, such as depression or anxiety. Myers noted that they have identified the hospital rooms they would use, have had representatives of the program come and look them over and VMH is looking over the contract. Myers estimated that, if approved, the program could potentially begin in the fall.

Myers noted that if they go ahead with the program, they would potentially offer group meetings as well as individual appointments through Senior Life Solutions. Senior Life Solutions has locations in several states and offers hospital-based geriatric outpatient behavioral health care in rural communities.

Myers also provided an update on the Iowa Hospital Association Rural Healthcare Innovation Task Force, of which he is a member. Myers noted that earlier in March, the CBS “Sunday Morning” show highlighted what it means to a community to not have a rural hospital.

“It’s pretty powerful stuff,” Myers said. He also noted that the plan of the task force is to look at what rural hospitals can do and what payment structures should look like moving forward, and they will be presenting that information to Senator Chuck Grassley in the near future.

VMH continues to work on getting the 340B outpatient drug pricing program up and running. Hartig Drug will be the hospital’s local partner in the program, and Myers said he appreciates all their effort.

Myers also noted that the hospital will be talking with insurance representatives to see what kind of a raise in premium they are looking at and how they can “lessen the blow” to the organization and the people paying the premiums.

There was also some discussion on the future of the obstetrics OB program at VMH. “We are excited about continuing it,” Myers said. He said they will be re-doing some areas and will have some advertising coming out with that. They will also take a look at how call looks in that department and what kind of advertising to do.

VMH is also continuing to look at enhancements to its billing process. The hospitals is currently at 64 days in Accounts Receivable (A/R), down from 105 days last July. Myers noted that they are looking to bring that number down even more and are exploring many options, including a voice recognition diction system for the providers, different products that examine the bills to make sure they are accurate, and looking at bills for proper coding. VMH is also working on adding PayPal to its website as an option for payments and donations.

Myers also noted that they are focusing on school-age children knowing how to dial 911 in an emergency. VMH also continues to work on its charge master.

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