If 2008 was a difficult financial year for health systems, 2009 is looking even worse. Lending markets continue to tighten up, and reimbursements are falling just when more uninsured and underinsured patients are knocking on your door. During these difficult times, it’s tempting to keep your financial situation even closer to the vest than usual. After all, your stakeholders are anxious enough without worrying that financial troubles at your institution might lead to job losses, curtailment of charity care, or facility closings. 

Read more: Naked Finance

In response to the economy and community awareness, many hospitals are refining their food offerings to focus on standard processes and local produce. In today’s hospital environment, every penny counts. Administrators are looking at every department and every line item in the budget to eliminate waste and redundancy. Food service is one area where a great amount of attention is being paid.

Read more: Tastes Great, Less Pricey

These hospitals pumped up their compliance and mitigated potential risks by implementing stronger internal controls. Internal controls play a vital role in keeping your organization financially strong. With revenues tight and regulatory oversight likely increasing, it makes sense to do whatever you can to tighten your internal control structure and make sure the controls you’ve established are as robust as possible.

Read more: Control Freak

When it comes to executive compensation packages, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. More than ever, individual companies need to figure out exactly what they want to accomplish with their compensation packages and tailor individual solutions based on that information. In this economy, precisely calibrated executive compensation packages are critical—not only to attract the talent that is best suited to your company but also to retain top executives and employees who are the public face of your company.

Read more: Money Talks

In a continued tight reimbursement market, managing the cashflow of a hospital or other healthcare provider can mean the difference between profitability and taking drastic measures to staunch the flow of red ink. Improving cashflow entails much more than keeping a tight rein on financials and improving collections. It can mean the greater use of technology to speed collections, reduce denials, and manage patient flow. But without the proper processes in place, any use of technology will likely fall short of expectations.

Read more: Back in the Black

Going to jail or spending millions to settle a series of honest mistakes is perhaps every medical professional’s worst nightmare. Yet both happen all too often in today’s crackdown on Medicare fraud, according to a Virginia neurologist who says he speaks from experience. Dr. Kevin Maziak (the physician’s pseudonym) served 18 months in prison from 2005 to 2007 after a court convicted him of willfully defrauding Medicare. His wife and office manager was also convicted and served a similar term. He lost his license, pension, and savings—all because his medical services didn’t match his billing codes.

Read more: Tighten Up

For healthcare providers, chasing down payment on overdue patient accounts has forever been an unfortunate reality of the business. But the recent economic downturn has intensified the challenge—and made it trickier to manage. Hospitals provided $36.4 billion worth of uncompensated care in 2008, up from $24.9 billion five years earlier. Bad debt and charity care are also rising steadily as a percentage of hospital expenses, from 5.5% in 2003 to 5.8% in 2008, according to the American Hospital Association. 

Read more: Cash Call

The buying frenzy of the 1990s is back. Hospitals are acquiring physician practices rapidly to increase marketshare and stave off competition. Many hospitals claim provider-based status for their physician practices, which entitles them to higher Medicare payments. The problem is that a significant number of hospitals fall short of the government-mandated requirements for provider-based status.

Read more: Fully Compliant

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