Medical and hospital consulting, as in other fields, is largely concerned with diagnosing and finding solutions to operational problems. In many cases, hospital administrators will be unable to determine how to fix certain aspects of daily operation. These problems can stem from a variety of causes, including chronic overstaffing (or understaffing), hospital network software malfunctions, hospital staff conflicts, unruly or difficult-to-manage patients, supply shortages, and more. Internal hospital administrators may not have the technical know-how or the psychological distance necessary to make a sound decision. Hospital consultants are external medical professionals who are contracted to propose solutions to a hospital’s chronic problems.
Many hospital consultants are former hospital administrators themselves who have since taken their talents into a field where they have more operational mobility. Independent hospital consultants can choose the problems that they are most familiar with, leading to some degree of specialization within the field. Hospital administrators who are looking for an independent consultant are advised to investigate the reputations of their applicants extensively. What sort of track record does the candidate have in solving problems specific to the hospital in question? What methods are typical for the applicants and what sort of time frame do they require when addressing hospital-wide problems? These questions are essential for current hospital administrators to gather meaningful data.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (also known as Obamacare or the ACA) has also profoundly affected national focus on hospital performance, which has raised the demand for effective hospital consultants nationwide. Originally, the Affordable Care Act gained international attention for its mandates requiring small business owners with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health insurance benefits for their full-time staff. Though these mandates caused significant national controversy during the healthcare reform debates prior to the ACA’s adoption, the ACA also caused significant restructuring of hospital performance tracking data in the United States.
In order to receive certain tiers of federal Medicare (a type of socialized health insurance available to all US citizens over the age of 65) revenue, hospitals must meet certain performance standards regarding mortality rates, readmission rates, average length of stay (LOS) for patients, etc. If these performance requirements are not met, hospitals may lose portions of their Medicare revenue, which can further jeopardize performance and hospital staffing. These effects are particularly apparent if the hospital in question is operating in an area with a high concentration of elderly residents. Hospital consultants may be brought in to address these specific performance issues as well.