Onerous HHS Reporting, New Partnership for Western Mass. Behavioral Health Hospital, and More...

Hospitals Navigate Onerous Federal Reporting Changes

Massachusetts hospitals are continuing to navigate the dramatic increase of daily data requirements mandated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. MHA and other state health officials continue to raise concerns about the administrative burden and questionable usefulness of some of the data.
As of last week, HHS is requiring hospitals to begin reporting an array of new data fields, further stretching providers' already limited administrative bandwidth. Healthcare organizations have also expressed frustration at the short time period given to adapt and possible integrity issues that emerged in the first days of the new system. HHS has also begun publishing COVID-19 hospital data previously reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its new data hub website.
“All Massachusetts acute care hospitals continue to report COVID-19 data to the federal government, working in close partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health," MHA president and CEO Steve Walsh said. "Hospitals across the country were given little time to adjust to the unnecessary and seismic changes put forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which fundamentally shift both the volume of data and the platforms through which data is submitted. We are working with DPH to make sense of these new requirements and resolve any outstanding challenges as quickly as possible.”

Baystate Health Plans Joint Behavioral Health Hospital in Western Mass.

Baystate Health and Kindred Healthcare, LLC last week announced plans to form a joint venture that will build and operate a $43 million state-of-the-art behavioral health hospital in western Massachusetts.
Leaders from both organizations said the new, 120-bed facility will address a shortage of behavioral health beds in the region – with Kindred managing day-to-day operations of the hospital and Baystate Health psychiatrists and advanced practitioners providing care. The new hospital is expected to employ more than 200 direct caregivers and ancillary staff.
Baystate Health remains focused on a centrally located Holyoke location and is in discussions with the City of Holyoke regarding the potential acquisition and development of a property for the new facility. From the time a site is secured, it is estimated it will be at least two years before the new hospital opens, pending regulatory and other approvals.
Until the new hospital is completed, Baystate will continue to operate its inpatient behavioral health units at its community hospitals. Emergency care services will be provided at all Baystate Health hospitals, and medically complex patients will be treated at Baystate Medical Center in its Adult Psychiatric Treatment Unit.

HPC Highlights Ongoing Hospital Losses, Commits to Taking on Racial Disparities in Healthcare

The state's Health Policy Commission says the healthcare community is showing some signs of a slow recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 surge here, but hospitals continue to see shortfalls even as elective procedures and outpatient visits resume under Massachusetts' reopening plans.
At its virtual board meeting last week, the HPC noted that new data indicates that by mid-June, outpatient visits in the northeast had returned to approximately 80% of pre-COVID-19 levels. Hospitals continue to amplify the message that they are safe places to seek care, and that patients should not avoid medical treatment or regular check-ups.
Hospitals continue to face losses, however. Massachusetts hospital margins were down 2.7% collectively in the first quarter of 2020, which ended at the end of March. HPC Commissioners said they expected those figures to drop further once second-quarter data for 2020 is available.
Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of color, the HPC also used last week's meeting to explicitly commit to addressing health equity in their work going forward. The agency’s statute says it should seek to address health care disparities as part of its mission.

AHA: Half of Hospitals Could be Operating in the Red by End of Year

Massachusetts hospitals have been struggling with enormous financial losses since the start of the spring, and, despite much-needed government funding, many are still operating under precarious fiscal conditions. Now a report released by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and Kaufman Hall Associates, LLC, predicts half of all U.S. hospitals will be operating in the red by the end of the year unless more federal relief is approved.
The report paints a grim picture of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding hospital operating margins could sink to negative 7% in the second half of 2020, and half of all hospitals are likely to operate with a negative margin. That drop would have been negative 15% without funding from Congress, which sent providers $175 billion earlier this year.
Hospitals were slammed financially by low patient volume and cancellation of elective procedures to preserve capacity to combat COVID-19.
A separate AHA analysis finds that the COVID-19 pandemic could cost hospitals $323 billion through the end of 2020.

UMass Memorial's Douglas Brown Appointed to AHA Board of Trustees

Douglas Brown, President of Community Hospitals and Chief Administrative Officer for UMass Memorial Health Care, has been appointed to the board of trustees of the American Hospital Association (AHA). The Board is AHA's highest policy-making body and has ultimate authority for the governance and management of its directions and finances.
Brown is a delegate to the AHA Regional Policy Board (RPB) 1, and as an AHA Board member, he will chair this RPB, which represents the six New England states. Brown will begin his three-year term on January 1, 2021. Brown has also served as a member of the board of trustees of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association. He is a member of MHA's finance committee and Caring for the Caregiver task force.

BMC's Kate Walsh to Receive Social Leadership Award

Kate Walsh, president and CEO of the Boston Medical Center (BMC) health system, has been awarded Boston Business Journal's 2020 Lewis Family Foundation CEO Social Leadership Award. She is the 14th recipient of the annual award, which is given to a regional executive who has gone above and beyond to innovate and create solutions to the area's biggest community challenges.
In announcing the honor, the BBJ noted that BMC patients were among the Massachusetts residents hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that Walsh and other hospital leaders across Greater Boston reached new levels of partnership and collaboration in their efforts to meet the challenges posed by the outbreak.
Walsh’s work and service to the community will be recognized, along with the contributions of other BBJ honorees, at the publication's first virtual Corporate Citizenship Awards program on Thursday, Sept. 10.
Walsh is also a member and past Chair of MHA's board of trustees.

MACRMI's (Virtual) Annual Forum

The 8th annual Communication, Apology, and Resolution (CARe) Forum will be held virtually this year, taking place on Monday, September 21. There will be an additional half hour following the event for questions and implementation consultations. The program is free and offers both CME and Nursing credits to qualified attendees.
Hosted by the Massachusetts Alliance for Communication and Resolution following Medical Injury (MACRMI), the CARe forum agenda will include keynote expert panels on "Perspectives from the Field" and "Addressing CARe Barriers," discussion of the latest data regarding CARe programs and national trends, and information on working with MACRMI to implement CARe at individual facilities.
An agenda can be found here, and the registration deadline is September 18. For more information, please contact mvanniel@bidmc.harvard.edu or visit www.macrmi.info.

MHA's Annual Leadership Forum: Healthcare Reimagined

This year has been a transformative one for healthcare. Join us at MHA’s Annual Leadership Forum on Thursday, September 24, where local and national thought leaders will discuss what the future holds for innovative breakthroughs, health equity, and the 2020 elections. This virtual conference will feature a keynote address, engaging panel discussions, and thought-provoking sessions. Dr. Mallika Marshall, local physician and WBZ Medical Reporter, will emcee the event and PBS NewsHour Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor will deliver one of the keynote addresses.
All healthcare clinical and administrative leaders are encouraged to attend. Click here to register and secure early bird pricing.

John LoDico, Editor