Expert Interview – Challenges Facing the Healthcare Industry

This month I interviewed Don Emrick, Dade Paper’s Director of Healthcare Sales. Don is an expert in the healthcare market segment. He works with hospitals and senior living communities, helping them address needs and challenges.

LC: Don, how long have you been working in this field?

DE: I have been in the distribution sales profession for about 37 years now. The last 20 has been in the healthcare segment, representing both manufacturers of healthcare products and distributors of those products.

LC: What are some of the changes you have seen in the industry over the last 2 decades?

DE: One big change is the population explosion. The Baby Boomer generation is retiring and the need for senior living communities is increasing. Today in America 10,000 people turned 65. By 2030, 18% of the population will be 65 years or older. Another change is in how Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement claims are paid. There are more regulations that impact the amount of reimbursement available. It’s a critical issue.

LC: Can you explain a bit more about that?

DE: Yes, this issue focuses on HAIs or Healthcare Acquired Infections. This has become a very serious problem that affects one of every 20 patients a year, roughly 1.7 million people. With an average cost of $14,000 per incident, these HAIs result in a cost of $20 billion annually. Under the current regulations, the healthcare facility is NOT reimbursed for the treatment cost of infections acquired within their walls.

LC: That must have a detrimental impact on financial stability. What steps can administrators take to minimize these instances?

DE: The best preventative measures are improving hand-hygiene and surface disinfection. These activities have always been important, but today even more so. Having defined and well-implemented best practices, as well as a disciplined means of measurement, are the best steps to take to address this issue. There many new and innovative products available that specifically address these protocols. One example is a disinfectant wipe that requires a much shorter dwell-time on the surface to be effective when compared to a traditional disinfectant spray. Purchasing better products and implementing training programs is a small investment compared to the cost of just one infection.

LC: What is another current issue this industry is wrestling with?

DE: In today’s world, hospitals and senior living communities have to manage their online reputation. Information including HCAHPS scores, which relate to patient satisfaction, and patient reviews are readily available to the public. A low score or a negative blog post can damage reputations. Consumers have options and they do their homework online to make decisions on what healthcare facilities to use. The same best practices that address HAIs, such as proper hand-hygiene and cleanliness, can have a positive impact on reputation.

Cost control is another challenge that administrators must face. Their budgets are squeezed but it is impossible to eliminate most of the materials and labor needed to maintain cleanliness. It is a difficult situation.

LC: What is your expert advice to an administrator?

DE: Rely on your suppliers for assistance. An experienced supplier partner can help address many of these issues from selecting the best products to offering training programs for custodial staff. Manufacturers are constantly innovating and developing better solutions. A good partner will bring these options to their customers and explain the features and benefits as well as cost-in-use information. They should be looking out for ways to help you improve your operations, not just taking orders for products.

Another good idea is to have spend-per-bed analyzed. By breaking down the expenditures at this level of detail and comparing to industry-wide benchmarks, areas for cost-savings improvement as well as potential process errors can be identified and addressed. These consultative services are offered at no charge by knowledgeable supplier partners such as Dade Paper.

Don Emrick and his team of Healthcare Specialists are available to consult with healthcare facilities throughout the Eastern United States. Don can be reached at demrick@dadepaper.com

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