Service line structure can be an essential part of program success

With the transition to pay-for-performance and outpatient care models, hospitals are aiming to stay competitive within their markets while maximizing patient outcomes. Service line structure—a strategic governance model across the continuum of care—is an integral strategy that supports these aims. Service line structure focuses on a hospital’s growth strategies, quality initiatives, clinical care delivery and other imperatives identified within the organization.

Kimberly Wright
Kimberly Wright, RN

“Our members need to have a system in place that allows them to identify the opportunity to improve care, grow their footprint in the community and then successfully execute their plan,” says Kimberly Wright, RN, AVP, HealthTrust Clinical Data Solutions. Unlike historical service line structures that only focused on the acute-care setting, today’s service lines need a more holistic approach that includes pre- and post-acute-care strategies.

Planning for growth

Kyla Stripling
Kyla Stripling, MMHC, MSN, ACNP

“There are many ways to use a service line structure to tackle program growth,” says Kyla Stripling, MMHC, MSN, ACNP, Director of Clinical Data Solutions at HealthTrust. The implementation of a service line governance structure offers regulation across a cohort and within a health system. With the maturation of a service line governance structure, facilities often experience a return on investment as well as a value of investment—such as improved patient quality and care experience.

“Once a defined governance structure is in place, hospitals are often in a better position to assess what other programmatic offerings can be added to existing service lines to support patient care,” says Stripling. “This can generate growth, as health systems may be able to provide care to a new cohort of patients previously unmanaged or diverted to other competing entities.”

A service line governance structure within a market or region can help direct resource allocation and avoid competition between hospitals from the same network, says Wright. “This systematic governance structure gives insight into areas of unnecessary resource duplication, identifies service line gaps, and develops a patient-centric strategy across the entire market or region.”

Community referrals

“Service line structure aims to reduce gaps in the system and promote a continuum of care across the acute and ambulatory settings for the patients, as well as their clinical providers,” explains Stripling. The reduction in care gaps can improve the community’s view, including the referring provider’s view, of the facility or health system. “This could in return generate community referrals as physicians build confidence in the system,” she adds.

Quality care

Increasing program growth and referrals go hand-in-hand with providing high-quality care, one of the goals of a service line structure. “By having that foundation, it’s easier to identify potential outliers,” explains Stripling. “If there is suddenly an infection spike, you’re able to go back and say, ‘This is what we implemented for quality. This is the team with oversight. This is the outcome that a patient should be having. Where is the disconnect, and how can we as a team correct it?’ ”

Wright adds, “A dyad leadership structure between physicians and administration; consistent, timely monitoring of clinical and financial metrics; and reduction in the variation of care provided are the keys to success. HealthTrust consultants collaborate with our members to maximize all three areas, resulting in improved service line performance and patient outcomes.”

For guidance on implementing or optimizing a service line structure within your organization, contact Kimberly Wright, RN, AVP, HealthTrust Clinical Data Solutions.

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