© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

University Hospitals vows it will increase efficiency to avoid further layoffs

The exterior of the front of University Hospitals' Main Campus in Cleveland.
Stephanie Metzger-Lawrence
Ideastream Public Media
Recent staff layoffs at University Hospitals are just the latest step in addressing rising costs, said Dr. Paul Hinchey, UH's chief operating officer.

University Hospitals leadership is pledging to use more efficient record-keeping and billing to make up for lost revenue that led the hospital system to eliminate more than 300 jobs.

UH announced June 19 it had cut more than 300 positions, including non-clinical leadership staff and support service personnel, such as human resources and IT staff, due to rising costs, inflation and Medicare reimbursement rates that are not keeping pace with expenses.

Dr. Paul Hinchey, UH's chief operating officer, reiterated the hospital's earlier statement that none of the cuts would affect the quality of patient care.

"We've been careful to try and stay away from anything that's going to impact our ability to care for patients, and to continue to care for patients in Northeast Ohio," he said.

He added UH would apply any savings to patients, not toward increased profits.

"The goal of this is to take the dollars that we save and reinvest those dollars in our frontline folks and in our ability to care for patients," he said.

The recent staff layoffs are just the latest step in addressing rising costs, Hinchey said.

"This is something that's been going on really since the end of the pandemic, where we've been looking to find ways to optimize our health system, take cost out of our structure," he said. "Unfortunately, some of that is that we've needed to reduce some of our labor costs, particularly in our areas of our leader and our support services."

UH is also facing problems due to local market dynamics, Hinchey said.

"For us in Northeast Ohio and in the Cleveland market, we have the additional challenge of an aging population, but also a contracting population," he explained. "Our population is getting smaller. There are fewer patients out there, and the patients that are here are aging and getting sicker and needing more care. But unfortunately, those are also largely Medicare or Medicare Advantage, which pay significantly less."

Hinchey specifically mentioned Medicare Advantage, which is Medicare coverage provided by private companies, as a problem.

"We're seeing health plans increase our denials for our patients in terms of available care, slowing our payments, and so those types of things are what's impacting our ability to generate revenue against these rising costs," he said.

The solution is using tools, such as the Epic electronic health care records system, to which UH fully transitioned late last year, to reduce coverage denials and ensure reimbursement for UH, Hinchey said.

"We're trying to be proactive about using our new tools to be proactive about creating cleaner bills that go out the door so we reduce the opportunity for denials," he said. "We're trying to communicate with the payer partners, the health plans, to contest some of these denials and make sure that our patients are getting the care they need and advocating for those patients."

Using the Epic system also allows UH to undertake the claims and billing process with less staff, Hinchey said.

"We can do it with fewer people, which represents a savings, which we then turn around and put right back into how we deliver care to our patients and investing in our frontline providers," he said.

Stephen Langel is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media's engaged journalism team.