Second Annual Patient Leakage and Keepage Report Offers In-Depth Look at Hospital and Health System Executives’ Views on the Challenge of Patient Leakage
According to a new report released today from ABOUT™ Healthcare, Inc. (ABOUT), a leading provider of solutions for orchestrating patient access across the care continuum, more than three-quarters of health system leaders (78%) say the COVID-19 pandemic has made controlling patient leakage a higher priority. Additionally, health systems could increase revenue an average of 17% by eliminating barriers to timely care within their networks.
The second annual “Patient Leakage & Keepage Report: State of the Industry” report reveals that preventing patients from receiving healthcare services outside the health system network of care (leakage) and retaining them (keepage) is a priority, but the visibility over leakage continues to be a challenge, as does measuring its financial impact.
All told, 65% of health system leaders say patient leakage blocks them from reaching their financial goals; 27% say they believe patient leakage has increased since the pandemic began, but they cannot fully measure it.
“COVID-19 has clearly impacted how health system senior leaders view patient leakage, but it is encouraging that the pandemic has spurred more organizations to make efficient patient care access and orchestration a higher priority given the major care quality and significant revenue gains these improvements can deliver,” said Angie Franks, CEO of ABOUT. “It is also inspiring for us at ABOUT to see so many health systems that do invest in reducing leakage and improving patient retention experience such a strong return on that investment.”
ABOUT commissioned an independent market research firm to conduct a survey about patient leakage and care access. All 138 survey respondents hold executive-level positions—C-level through director—at U.S. regional and community health systems and hospitals and are responsible for patient care, hospital administration, finance, or operations.
Throughout the pandemic, patients, families, and health systems leaders have been reminded in devastating terms of the life-saving importance of prompt, efficient access to hospital care.
A Spotlight on Care Access
Healthcare access has been a challenge for decades as patients have faced issues such as overcrowded emergency rooms, narrow provider networks, and waiting months to see a physician specialist or for a procedure. COVID-19, however, has brought care access—and lack thereof—into stark focus.
The report reflects this new awareness and demonstrates an immediate need for health systems to achieve greater visibility and tighter controls over patient care access and orchestration. By expanding their patient navigation capabilities, health systems can drive improved financial performance, but more importantly, improved patient outcomes by rapidly transitioning patients to the appropriate care setting.
In addition to making patient leakage a higher priority, the survey found the following:
- 76% responded the pandemic has added to the patient leakage challenges
- 54% cited capacity problems/not enough beds at hospitals
- 35% cited lack of staff talent
- 25% cited service line gaps
- 22% cited competitors making it easier to get access to services
- Only 28% of health systems feel prepared to handle the changes in patient transfer patterns that could develop due to new COVID-19 strains
Visibility and Measurement Challenges Remain
Last year’s report showed that 38% of health system leaders either were unconfident or didn’t know if their organization had visibility into leakage. This year’s results were identical to last year’s regarding visibility with only 10% of organizations “very confident” in their capabilities.
Similarly, in this recent survey, more than 43% of healthcare leaders either didn’t know or indicated they were unable to calculate the financial costs of patient leakage and more than 75% did not “definitely” know which service lines were impacted.
According to this year’s report, filling these knowledge gaps is crucial considering 66% of a health system’s specialty center referrals come from outside a health system’s emergency departments (EDs), according to survey results, and less than 19% of health system leaders say internal EDs drive adequate volume to these centers. To attract new patients means forging stronger relationships with community hospitals, which is what nearly 63% of survey respondents made a priority in 2021.
Progress and ROI in Controlling Leakage
New in this year’s report is insight into health system leaders’ progress in controlling patient leakage. While 60% of health systems do not have a definite plan to reduce patient leakage, for those organizations that are working on it, 60% see an impact after just four years. Key factors in stronger control over patient leakage include training employees on how to keep patients within their health system (62%), educating and aligning providers (48%), an outreach program to referring providers (42%), and adding capacity to hospitals (41%).
Additionally, the health systems that have measured and/or controlled patient leakage have discovered a significant financial impact. On average, organizations have calculated a $31.36 return for every dollar invested—or as much as $500 per $1 by one health system’s estimate.
While COVID-19 has added to patient leakage challenges, after the pandemic, several obstacles remain in controlling this important performance indicator. Overall, 45% of leaders say competition from other health systems is the most common obstacle in reducing patient leakage. Only 57% of health system executives, however, said their organization uses technology to quantify the movement of patients out of their care network.
“Process optimization and change management services, which ABOUT also delivers, are essential for identifying a health system’s leakage challenges and designing a clear, comprehensive and data-driven plan to overcome them,” Franks said. “Combining our proven technology trusted by health systems of all sizes across the U.S. and our clinician-led consulting solutions empowers hospitals to operate as a Real-Time Health System (RTHS) and a connected network of care.”
More information and access to the full The Patient Leakage & Keepage Report is available in the ABOUT insights library.