Olympic Medical Center chief outlines efforts at improvements

Decreased number of travelers among them

PORT ANGELES — In an effort to improve its financial position, Olympic Medical Center has been working with the consulting firm Advanced Operations Partners to improve management and organizational practices across its system to control and cut costs, CEO Darryl Wolfe told commissioners.

A priority among the six focus areas OMC and Advanced Operations Partners have identified was reducing contract labor expenses for “travelers,” or non-staff workers, which surged during the pandemic and continued to be a cost driver after it ended.

“We’re down to 35 travelers, down from a high of 79 about a year ago,” Wolfe said Wednesday. “The goal is 20 travelers by the year’s end.”

OMC is also starting to see positive results from working with staff on improving the accuracy of medical information, and it is seeking ways to more effectively handle denials, Wolfe said.

“The biggest challenge we have is how do we rethink the way we do things in our OR and our procedure rooms, how do we use them more effectively,” Wolfe said. “We have started looking at market analysis to see where the market is and how we can go after it.”

OMC also had been exploring how to increase its use of block scheduling, evaluating how to optimize its purchasing through contract pricing and considering ways to improve diagnostic imaging scheduling to both better serve patients and curb costs.

“There is money to be found in these efforts and, fully implemented, it’s over $10 million, but it does take time to implement all these things,” Wolf said.

OMC has been acutely aware it must curb expenses across all levels of its organization. There was no financial report presented at Wednesday’s meeting; the financial report presented at the commissioners’ Jan. 17 meeting showed that, through November 2023, OMC had lost almost $25 million year to date.

OMC is not alone in its struggles to contain costs. According to the Washington State Hospital Association, 86 percent of hospitals in the state lost money over the first nine months of 2023.

OMC hired Advanced Operations Partners at a cost of $225,000 in July 2023 to conduct a six-week assessment and make recommendations for strategies to improve its profitability. At their Nov. 1 meeting, commissioners approved a 13-week, $295,000 contract with the company to work with OMC to put the recommendations into place.

Wolfe said OMC finances were front and center on his recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he met with staffers from the offices of Sen. Maria Cantwell, Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Derek Kilmer and with the Alliance for Rural Healthcare Access.

The purpose, he said, was “to tell our story and the story of organizations like ours, highlight the payment challenges that we’ve had with CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) and also our intention to submit a project for an appropriations request to Derek Kilmer’s office.”

Wolfe added, “We made it clear our goal is to do all we can to ensure OMC is viable for the long term and our top aim is to maintain all the core services that we provide and that our community depends on.”

Director of Quality Support Services Liz Uraga said OMC fared well during a visit Tuesday and Wednesday by a team from DNV Healthcare, which conducted one of its annual accreditation reviews to make sure the system was meeting compliance, regulation and code standards.

Four DNV surveyors spent two days assessing the hospital and medical office building in Port Angeles, the medical building in Sequim and the outlying clinics. They looked at OMC’s quality management system, how it ensured medical staff was trained and qualified, its medical record keeping, its buildings, patient care, readiness for emergencies and cybersecurity, among other areas.

DNV presented Uraga and her team with its preliminary findings Wednesday; they will receive the final report within 10 days.

“That will tell us what we need to improve on, but we can start working now because they’ve given us an idea of what we might see in the final report,” Uraga said.

The goal will be to resolve any issues within 60 days.

Uraga said OMC received positive feedback about a tool the nursing team in the short stay unit had developed for checking patient acuity.

“(The DNV surveyor) shared that she has not seen another hospital or short stay unit that has been able to nail acuity in the way that we have,” Uraga said.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@peninsuladailynews.com.

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