BRHS search for more money finds options

Published 5:44 am Thursday, July 22, 2010

Staff Writer

The search for additional revenue for Beaufort Regional Health System has turned up two promising options that are scheduled to be presented to the system’s governing board next week.
One proposal targets unpaid bills. Another proposal calls for an intensive review of patients’ charts to scan for unreported medical conditions in an effort to increase insurance reimbursements
Both proposals were presented to a BRHS committee formed to look for ways to cut BRHS costs and increase income.
While both proposals are worth considering, they should be carefully evaluated by BRHS management to ensure the health system gets the biggest bang for its buck, consultant John A. Schrull of High Point told the committee.
“I think both of these presentations today represent potential. The question is cost-benefit,” Schrull said. “We need to chase hard those things that will give us additional breathing room, but we can’t chase all of them.
“Both of these things have merit. The question is, relatively speaking, are they the best?”
The committee met Wednesday after a hiatus and will continue to meet weekly for the next month.
Next week, the committee is scheduled to discuss scheduling at local doctors’ practices, marketing for Washington’s remaining urgent-care practice, services offered by the medical center’s laboratory, hospital pharmacy practices and possible employee salary reductions.
BRHS Board Chairman Alice Mills Sadler said the committee’s work will help BRHS negotiate with possible merger partners “from a position of strength instead of a position of desperation.”
BRHS is seeking proposals from 10 potential merger partners, including Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern North Carolina and nine for-profit systems in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
In the meantime, it is seeking ways to improve its financial situation.
The committee’s goal is to “try to find ways to reduce costs and increase revenue whether we wind up leasing the hospital or whether we wind up keeping the hospital,” said committee Chairman Hood Richardson. Richardson is a member of the BRHS Board of Commissioners and Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.
A plan to help BRHS collect some of its unpaid bills was presented to the committee by Nathan Sauers, senior vice president for business development of Healthcare Fiscal Management of Williamston.
Healthcare Fiscal Management has worked with some 45 health-care providers since it began its operations in 1997, Sauers said.
Under the proposal, Healthcare Fiscal Management would be paid a commission based on a percentage of the money collected once the money owed BRHS is paid, Sauers said.
Sauers declined to make much of the information in his plan available to the public — including the cost of his proposal — stating that it included “proprietary information.”
A plan to help the medical center recoup more money for patient care through an intensive review of patients’ charts was presented by Victor Bustard, a New Bern gynecologist and obstetrician representing BCE Technology.
With corporate headquarters in Clearwater, Fla., BCE Technology trains doctors to improve the documentation of their care for patients, which helps improve hospital reimbursement for services.
The program, in use at Craven Regional Medical Center, has helped that hospital increase its revenue and could help BRHS increase its reimbursements by more than $1.7 million a year, Bustard said.
The cost of the program was initially estimated to range from $125,000 to $250,000.
Bustard said BRHS could recoup those costs within the first months of the program.
The need for improved documentation, known as chart review, at BRHS was endorsed by James Manning, a hospitalist at BRHS who also oversees the local staff of hospitalists.
“This is something that I have been talking about for a long time,” he said. “This is about getting the money we are owed.”
The committee referred both proposals to Susan Gerard, BRHS acting chief executive officer, and other members of the management team for a recommendation at the BRHS Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.