The State of Healthcare Today

As Regional West and other hospitals nationwide focus on delivering quality, affordable healthcare, staff shortages, supply chain issues, the rising costs of medical supplies, and lowered reimbursement rates are contributing to ever-increasing operational challenges.

Regional West is not alone in financial and staffing challenges. According to the Nebraska Hospital Association, 55% of Nebraska hospitals are currently running in the red financially, facing increased costs of both labor and equipment. A recent article by Becker’s Hospital Review detailed workforce reductions in over 53 hospitals and health systems nationwide, including nearby Monument Health in Rapid City, South Dakota, who recently eliminated 2% of its total workforce. In the majority of hospitals mentioned, the affected jobs are in non-patient care areas.

As a healthcare institution, Regional West is taking steps to operate as efficiently as possible, remain viable, and continue to serve our families, friends, and neighbors for years to come.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians, providers, nurses, and employees at Regional West, along with health systems throughout the nation, remained on the front lines caring for the patients and communities they serve. Fatigue and burnout was the unfortunate consequence, and now, three years later, staff shortages continue to be a reality. In order to be adequately staffed, Regional West was forced to utilize agency workforce; our goal is to reduce contracting with them and rehire local nurses.

One area where Regional West looks to gain much needed efficiency is the billing system, or revenue cycle; a highly complex process. There are currently eight teams of employees reviewing and walking through every step of the process to identify improvements that can be made to the system. It is important to provide our patients with a great patient experience and a timely, accurate bill for the services they receive.

The revenue cycle begins with the patient’s first contact with our facility, the medical center, or physician clinics. Getting an appointment and communicating with your care provider needs to be easier. Our revenue cycle teams are seeking to correct processes and improve the customer experience.

Regional West has implemented a more robust “safety huddle” – a daily review of everything that occurred within the organization over the previous 24 hours that was not anticipated – and to look at problems and processes that need to be addressed. This huddle has resulted in changes to around 90 Regional West processes.

To help improve the patient experience, our administration team has also added daily interdisciplinary team meetings, comprised of physicians, providers, and employees from all healthcare specialties, to assess quality of care, issues presented by families, and the next steps to a healthy discharge for patients.

In the best interest of serving patients and providing exceptional care regionally, members of our administrative team visited other regional hospitals over the past few months to help re-establish communication lines. As the state’s only Level II Trauma Center west of Kearney, Regional West plays a major role in providing care for patients from area critical access hospitals when needed, and looks to correct processes and improve the customer experience with these hospitals.

It is essential for Regional West to focus on improving the efficiency of our core services while providing an excellent patient experience. One change in regional services is that Regional West will no longer provide ambulance service through Regional West Emergency Medical Services in some outlying communities. Instead, we plan to transition the service back to the local communities and counties.

In addition, effective June 30, 2024, Regional West will end its current operating agreement with Garden County Health Services (GCHS) in Oshkosh. Throughout the next year, Regional West and GCHS will seek opportunities for efficiencies within the partnership while maintaining quality healthcare in Garden County.

At Regional West, our physicians, providers, nurses, and employees are working hard to provide exceptional care for our patients. To us, Regional West is more than a building; many of our employees were born here or gave birth to our children here. It’s a place where we’ve both celebrated and mourned with our families and our patients’ families.

We care deeply about Regional West and its future. While local, regional, and national financial and situational factors continue to evolve in the healthcare sphere, we are dedicated to improving the processes detailed above while enhancing the patient experience for those we serve.