Valley View Hospital focuses on efficiencies amid rising costs | PostIndependent.com

Valley View Hospital focuses on efficiencies amid rising costs

Glenwood Springs' private, nonprofit health center, Valley View Hospital, continues to work toward better efficiency in its operation in the ever-rising sea of health-care costs and a rapidly changing payer demographic.

That was one of the key messages provided by Charlie Crevling, recent new chief financial officer for the hospital, during a 2018 progress report given at the Valley View Hospital Association annual meeting last week.

For a relatively rural, community hospital, with 1,100 employees and 78 beds, "the scope of services we provide is off the charts," Crevling said.

At the same time, "We need to continue to be more efficient in how we provide those services," he said.

"We would never not continue to take Medicaid and Medicare, that's just part of who we are," Crevling said before the gathering of association members and hospital staff. "But to do that, we need to be responsible."

And, the number of patients covered under the two main federal government health insurance programs is increasing. Currently, Medicare patients, those 65 and older, make up 36 percent of the hospital's payer mix, while Medicaid (low income) patients account for 18 percent.

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Patients carrying commercial insurance account for 38 percent of Valley View's payer mix, and other government insurance, including workers' comp, is 4 percent, and uninsured patients also account for 4 percent, Crevling reported.

Over the next 10 years, though, with the final wave of Baby Boomers hitting age 65, the mix of Medicare patients is expected to grow to more than 53 percent for Valley View, based on Colorado demographic data.

To adjust, the hospital is forecasting a 2 percent increase in rates for the coming year, and is doing what it can to control labor costs, Crevling said.

Valley View has welcomed 20 new physicians and associate health providers in the past year, and the total number of providers on staff now stands at 194, as of year-end 2017 figures.

However, the number of full-time equivalent employees on staff has gone down some over the past two years, from 883 in 2016 to 879 in 2017.

Total salaries and benefits are now around $117 million, compared to $119.2 million in 2016. Just eight years ago, before the Calaway Young Cancer Center and other recent new services were added, total salaries and benefits at Valley View stood at $64.8 million. Valley View expects to award a salary increase this year of 3 percent, according to the annual report.

Another focus for Valley View is to remain cost competitive with other area hospitals and medical service providers, Crevling said.

"We know that we need to be price-competitive, because people do have a choice in where they go for health services," he said. "We also know we can't meet Denver [prices], but we can push that curve."

In working to limit bad debt (unpaid hospital bills) by getting as many people as possible on payment plans, Valley View does provide a substantial amount of "charity care" through its payment assistance program, Crevling also explained.

Valley View provided $10.3 million worth of charity care in 2017, up from $9.8 million the prior year. That's among the most generous amounts of any hospital he's been associated with, said Crevling, who came to Valley View last year after serving as chief financial officer at Vail Valley Medical Center.

Valley View provides assistance to families earning as much as 500 percent of the federal poverty level, he explains. That means a family of four with an income of $121,500 could see a $6,000 hospital bill reduced 40 percent to $3,600, he said.

The year 2017 was a big one for Valley View on several fronts, Crevling also reported.

The Valley View Auxiliary disbanded after a 62-year run, having determined that it had accomplished its original mission of support to the hospital. During its many years of service, the auxiliary raised nearly $500,000 for student scholarships from the Heart-to-Heart Gift Shop, its annual Pie Day event and other efforts. Last year, the auxiliary awarded $30,000 worth of medical education scholarships, and made a $10,000 donation to the Connie Delaney Medical Library.

Volunteers continue to be a big part of helping to keep hospital costs down, Crevling also said. Last year, Valley View had 175 adult volunteers and 15 junior volunteers logging 15,000 volunteer hours and delivering 2,615 Meals on Wheels.

"I can't say how much we appreciate the people in our community who give their time for our patients," Crevling said. "They truly help us bring health care to the community more efficiently and effectively."

In addition, a recent $2.75 million Valley View Foundation cardiovascular fundraising campaign continues to pay off. Crevling said the catheterization laboratory was one of the things that drew him to Valley View.

"What we are doing here you won't see anywhere else on the Western Slope, and is usually something you only see in a university setting," he said.

Also in 2017, Valley View's retail pharmacy officially opened, the hospital was reaccredited among 21,000 healthcare organizations by the Joint Commission Organization, and Valley View was re-designated as a Level III Trauma Hospital.