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Every year the healthcare industry is becoming more and more complex. This is due to the growing demands on the quality and efficiency of healthcare, as well as to constant changes in legislation and technological innovations. This in turn stimulates a growing demand for consulting services in this field. Healthcare consultants can provide valuable information, develop strategies to improve the health care organization, and offer solutions for health care accounting and patient payment. To determine if you need the services of a healthcare consultant, it’s important to understand their functions and the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration.
Who Needs a Healthcare Consultant and How they can Help?
Consulting is a professional activity in which an expert provides knowledge and guidance to companies, most often working on a contract basis. Healthcare consulting is a professional service that helps organizations improve their performance. Change in the healthcare industry is constant, so companies need to adapt to remain competitive. Healthcare consulting helps organizations identify areas for improvement and helps implement change.
Who can benefit from the services of a professional consultant:
- Health care providers (private and public clinics, doctors’ offices, nursing homes).
- Medical insurance companies.
- Government agencies connected with health care.
- Pharmaceutical companies.
- Medical equipment and biotechnology companies.
Healthcare consulting firm helps their clients reduce costs, increase efficiency and get structural improvements. This can include a variety of specialties and services, such as:
- business strategy consulting;
- technology implementation;
- human resources management;
- legal issues;
- revenue and reimbursement specialist services.
The goal of all of these segments in health care consulting is to help management make the right decisions and increase the profit potential of the organization.
Advantages of Working with Healthcare Consulting Companies
There are many benefits to working with healthcare consulting companies. Some of the major ones include:
- Experience and expertise. Consulting firms have extensive healthcare experience and expertise that can be important in solving complex problems and improving performance.
- Efficiency. Consulting firms use advanced technology and techniques to increase organizational efficiency, reduce costs and improve services. For example, implementing a patient intake and registration system can simplify and expedite this process, which will impact patient satisfaction with the healthcare facility.
- Independence and objectivity. Consultants work independently of companies, which allows them to be more objective in their recommendations. They can provide new perspectives and solutions that may not be available to internal staff.
- Business Approach. The medical staff usually focuses solely on health care, but management skills and business competence are also necessary for successful health care facilities. Patients usually come first, not the “business” of the hospital. Healthcare consultants can fill this gap by providing sound business advice to healthcare providers.
- Improving staff productivity. Consultants can conduct assessments to make sure that everyone in the healthcare facility is doing their job. Internal productivity assessments for medical staff can be difficult because of the tedium of the job and possible biases. Consultants, on the other hand, can provide objective assessments and help improve staff productivity in a more efficient way.
- Access to new technology. Consulting firms can help organizations stay abreast of new technological developments and techniques in the healthcare industry, which can help them improve their operations and remain competitive.
- Assistance with strategic decision making. Consultants can help organizations develop and implement strategies to achieve their goals and overcome barriers to growth.
- Saving time and resources. Working with consulting firms can save companies time and resources because consultants already have the necessary knowledge and experience and have access to analysis tools and resources that can be costly for companies.
Disadvantages of Working with Healthcare Consulting Firms
Discuss potential disadvantages of working with healthcare consulting firms, such as cost, lack of institutional knowledge, and resistance to change.
Examples of how these disadvantages might affect the relationship between health care organizations and healthcare consulting firms.
Working with healthcare consulting firms can also have some disadvantages:
- consultants typically cost more than in-house staff, so some organizations may find themselves struggling financially when trying to hire consultants;
- consultants often use template solutions that don’t always meet the unique needs of the client;
- consultants may lack expertise in specific areas of health care, which can lead to inappropriate recommendations;
- difficulty integrating consultants’ recommendations-they may offer recommendations that sound good on paper, but are difficult to incorporate into the organization’s existing structure and culture
- risk of leakage of confidential information.
In addition, when working with consultants, there is a risk that staff will be unprepared or unwilling to change their usual ways of working. This can lead to the fact that the proposed recommendations will not be effectively implemented, which in turn can lead to a loss of time and money for all participants in the process. On the other hand, resistance to change is not always a disadvantage and can be an important mechanism for preventing the introduction of ill-conceived or negative changes that can be detrimental to patients and the organization. It is important that consultants and organizational staff work together to ensure that change is implemented as effectively as possible with as little resistance as possible.
Choosing the Right Healthcare Consulting Firm
Choosing the right healthcare consulting firm can be critical to the success of a healthcare organization.
What to look for when choosing a consulting firm:
- Experience and qualifications. A healthcare organization should choose a consulting firm with experience in healthcare. A qualified consultant should have the business and healthcare knowledge to help the organization deal with complex issues.
- Reputation. The healthcare organization should research the reputation of the consulting firm. This can be done by reviewing client testimonials and looking at the portfolio of projects completed by the consultant.
- Flexibility. The consulting firm should be flexible and able to adapt to the unique needs of each medical organization. A good consultant should provide customized solutions, not a “conveyor belt approach.”
- Market Understanding. A consulting firm must understand trends and changes in the healthcare marketplace. It must have knowledge of technologies and new products that can improve the efficiency and performance of the medical organization.
- Price. A medical organization should choose a firm that provides high quality services for a reasonable price.
- Communication. Communication between the consulting firm and the medical organization is key to success. Consultants should have good communication skills and report regularly on project progress.
One example of a successful partnership between healthcare organizations and consulting firms is Kaiser Permanente (KP) Hospital of California’s collaboration with McKinsey & Company to improve patient care and reduce health care costs. The project included the use of innovative management techniques such as Lean Six Sigma and other methodologies to streamline processes and improve the quality of patient care. The project resulted in a 10% reduction in the average time patients spent in the hospital, as well as a 20% reduction in the cost of care. To learn more about the companies’ collaboration, the innovations implemented and their results, read an interview with Hal Wolf, one of Kaiser Permanente’s executives
Another example of a successful collaboration between a healthcare organization and a consulting firm is the Atrium Health hospital chain’s partnership with Deloitte. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Atrium Health worked with Deloitte to develop and implement the Hospital Home Health (AH-HaH) program. In its first 10 months, it screened 51,000 patients. AH-HaH provides daily telemonitoring by nurses for patients with COVID-19, and provides enhanced care when needed. For patients with more severe conditions, the program provides hospital-level home care using a hybrid of virtual and in-person services. AH-HaH provides 24-hour access to virtual doctor appointments for patients. This allows health care providers to utilize unused resources, such as complex care, and provide safe treatment for more serious conditions in the patient’s home, instead of traditional hospitalization. AH-HaH provides patients with Bluetooth-enabled devices that connect to a smartphone app and integrate with the hospital’s electronic medical record. Other health systems are also using AH-HaH in their facilities. In addition, the virtual hospital plans to expand its services to other diagnoses, including congestive heart failure.
An Ethical Issue When Working with a Consulting Firm
The work of health care consulting firms can involve a number of ethical issues, including conflicts of interest and the ability to make decisions that benefit the consulting firm but not the health care organization they are advising.
Conflicts of interest can arise if consultants work with several clients at the same time, including competitors in the healthcare industry. In such a situation, consultants may find it difficult to maintain confidentiality and independence when working with each client.
In addition, consultants may face pressure from their consulting firm’s management. This may result in consultants recommending solutions that benefit the consulting firm but are not necessarily the best for health care.
One way to mitigate potential ethical concerns could be to include an outside observer to monitor the consultant’s process and make sure that the consultant’s recommendations are in the best interest of the health care organization. In addition, health care organizations can contract with consultants in which they commit to certain ethical standards and agree on their recommendations with the client.
Overall, choosing the right healthcare consulting firm and adhering to ethical standards will help avoid conflicts of interest and provide maximum benefit to the healthcare organization and its patients.
Benefits of working with healthcare consulting firms include access to experts and resources that can help healthcare organizations improve the efficiency and quality of their services as well as their financial position. However, disadvantages can include high consulting costs and possible conflicts of interest.
When selecting a consultant, healthcare organizations should consider factors such as the consulting firm’s reputation, its experience in the healthcare industry and its past performance with clients. Transparency and trust in the relationship between healthcare organizations and consulting firms are also important. Healthcare organizations must be willing to openly discuss their needs and expectations with consultants, and consulting firms must ensure transparency in their work and adhere to high standards of ethics and professionalism.