Hospitals across the country are increasingly concerned with rising costs of diagnostic equipment, staffing shortages and reimbursement rates—as the need for sleep testing increases. Joseph LaPorta, CEO of Persante Health Care, explains the benefits and challenges of outsourcing your sleep program.
As a 25 year young outsource sleep management provider, Persante is certainly in touch with today’s challenges to running a successful sleep program. “We interact with physicians and hospital administrators on a regular basis who recognize the needs of the communities they serve, however, have very real concerns on how to sustain or grow their sleep program,” stated Joseph LaPorta, CEO of Persante Health Care. “The feedback we consistently hear is around market dynamics shifting while the need for patient testing is increasing.”
Some of these dynamics include reimbursement pressure by payers for a needed comprehensive sleep study, staffing shortages, and lack of capital to keep up with technology advancements required for their diagnostic testing equipment and operating systems. For some hospitals, the management of such an operationally complex service line is better suited for a team totally focused on managing sleep program diagnostics and therapy.
THE OUTSOURCING ADVANTAGE
The outsource company’s expertise in sleep diagnostics and management is a huge advantage for hospitals and their bottom line. As a new ancillary service line or a revamp of an existing sleep program, the experience and proven track record of the outsource company provides a more efficient and cost-effective approach to manage a successful sleep program while mitigating the risk away from the hospital. Through Persante’s experience in managing sleep programs as an outsource provider, the advantages to the outsource delivery model include supplier bulk purchase power, proven workflow efficiency with quality control documentation, and dedicated clinical education programs.
Outsource companies may have partnerships with vendors utilizing technology and diagnostic equipment bulk purchasing—passing the savings onto their hospital client’s sleep program. Operating the latest technology and equipment limits downtime due to technical issues as well as improves efficiencies and access to data. If the outsource company provides the equipment, the responsibility will lean on the outsource company to repair and restore the equipment keeping the sleep program at full operational capacity—24/7/365.
The outsource delivery model may also include additional services like clinical education or navigation. A field-based clinical educator calling on the referral network in a hospital’s catchment area offers center brand and service awareness, technical information of sleep medicine and treatment, referral process tracking and payer guidelines. The educator is also the face of the program to the community on sleep disorder awareness via health fairs and symposiums. These activities offer a hospital an economical alternative to marketing and provides an opportunity to improve both physician and patient experience thus growing the program.
TRADEOFFS OF OUTSOURCING
Partnering with outsource companies offers many advantages but there can be tradeoffs when working with an outsource vendor. Outsourcing should be viewed as a partnership—no single entity has sole ownership. Many outsourcing companies have different outsource delivery models—what works for one hospital may not work for another. According to Partnering with an Outsource Sleep Management Company: a guide to outsource your sleep center, a white paper produced by Persante Health Care in partnership with Philips Respironics, tradeoffs to outsourcing including discontinuity of service quality, accountability issues, loss of competencies, excessive supplier dependency, and consequent loss of flexibility should be considered when discussing outsourcing. Other factors such as branding, offerings, and accreditation can also be considered tradeoffs in the outsource delivery model if not agreed upon during the primary discussions between the outsource company and the hospital.
The outsource delivery model should provide accreditation management as a service option. When the hospital is changing the management of the sleep program over to the outsource company, accreditation management should be on the table for discussion.
Outsourcing tradeoffs are only “tradeoffs” when communication and alignment are not established with the outsource company. Hospitals should be well aware of the outsourcing tradeoffs and pitfalls to make sure their partnership with the outsource company aligns with the mission of the hospital and sleep program. “Like any prudent business decision, the customer should do their homework and make sure the vendor has the experience, scale, and resources to deliver on an end-to-end sleep solution,” says LaPorta.
BEST PRACTICES TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS
When speaking with hospital leaders, Persante makes a case for outsourcing the hospital’s sleep program. Making the business case for outsourcing is the start of a “best practice” approach to open the dialogue with decision makers. Structuring the outsource delivery model to form best practices such as a comprehensive partnership, open and scheduled communication, data accumulation metrics and reporting, and clinical education efforts allow for a focused plan to grow the sleep program.
Forming a comprehensive strategic partnership between the hospital and the outsource company leads to committed roles and responsibilities with all involved. Appointment of a consistent contact—usually a customer success director—within the outsource company is critical when addressing and resolving issues with the sleep program in a timely fashion. The customer success director routinely meets with administration and establishes open communication when issues arise. Quarterly business reviews with hospital administration and facilitated by the customer success director should review key metrics and reports, physician or community outreach and education initiatives, staffing, patient satisfaction, and program and facility upgrades. During the quarterly business review, both the hospital administration and the customer service director should also collaborate on an action plan for operational improvements based on the data presented by the outsource company. “Collaboration and transparency with our partners are key,” says LaPorta.
To grow the sleep program and increase access to care, a strong physician or community outreach and education plan—approved by the hospital partner and delivered by the outsource company—should include initiatives such as research and introductory office visits to qualify new and different referral sources; promotion of community awareness through outreach events and health fairs within the local area; referral analytics and source tracking reports delivered to hospital administration on a regular basis; creation and delivery of patient education materials; and facilitation of physician educational “lunch and learn” presentations. In addition to traditional initiatives, the outsource company should commit to patient compliance assistance establishing communication channels with physician offices to troubleshoot patient issues.
Culturally, outsourcing may be a scary proposition for hospital administrators, but a concise, comprehensive partnership between hospital administration and the outsource company may lead the sleep program to grow to its full potential while achieving high patient satisfaction. With the advantages outweighing the tradeoffs to the outsource delivery model, hospitals may find that this new innovative approach to patient care also works well for the bottom line.
Persante Health Care ranks as one of the top sleep center management and diagnostic companies in the U.S. As a leader in the industry, Persante manages over 80 Sleep and Balance Centers in the Northeast and recently launched Home Sleep Diagnostics expanding home sleep apnea testing to transportation, wellness, and dental programs nationwide. Persante’s outsourced delivery model and comprehensive approach to serving patients in a high-quality manner have earned recognition and accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the National Sleep Foundation.
Joseph J. LaPorta is the President, Chief Executive Office, and Board Director for Persante Health Care based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Prior to joining Persante, Joseph was CEO of private equity owned Flexeon Rehabilitation which was acquired by ATI Physical Therapy in 2015. He also held leadership roles with GE Health Care, McKesson Corporation, and Vidar Systems. Joseph holds a Master’s of Science degree in Business Management from National Louis University in Chicago as well as a Bachelors in Science from Illinois State University. He completed the Execution Leadership Program at Cornell University and is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. Joseph also serves as an adjunct professor at National Louis University in the school of management and business on coursework related to leadership and organizational behavior.