According to the American College of Surgeons www.facs.org, obtaining surgical care can be a troublesome task for patients in rural areas, Not only is distance a problem, but rural hospitals often face financial difficulties in recruiting and keeping surgeons on staff.
The Texas Tech University Health Sciences (TTUHS) www.ttuhsc.edu in Odessa Texas, has developed a novel methodology to reduce rural area surgical costs, improve quality of care, and also increase revenue for academic surgical programs. Their findings were presented at the 2017 American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress.
The TTUHS team has developed partnerships between rural hospitals and academic surgery departments so that each one can benefit from the other’s resources. To start, academic surgeons were placed in rural hospital, reducing the hospitals’ costs associated with recruiting and staffing surgeons.
Since more rural hospitals had surgeons available on site, patient transfers were reduced. As a result of these partnerships, participating rural hospitals saw an average increase of $4.7 million in net revenue.
The partnerships also benefited the academic surgery departments. Since academic departments rely on Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding to offset the cost of indigent care and education, the partnerships have helped stop the reduction in GME funding.
Lead study author, Saju Joseph, MD stressed that one of the most important results from these partnerships was increased patient satisfaction. With patient transfers reduced by more than 70 percent in participating hospitals, it was found that patients were substantially more satisfied with their local service. Patient survey results showed that on a scale of one to ten, the average patient satisfaction jumped by an entire point due to the increased availability of surgical services.
The residents where these partnerships were developed were aware of the effort to bring together academic surgeons and rural hospitals. To let the residents know, announcements were distributed by local hospitals that were partnering with the academic institutions.
The research team was able to develop partnerships in five hospitals, enabling counties to save money which is available to help the counties in other ways. The projected cost savings for the state of Texas for establishing the partnerships was roughly $7 million.