May 18, 2009 “Intelligence:  Late Breaking Lab News”

Experts are watching hospital finances to see whether slumping economic activity and growing unemployment rates are having an impact. At for-profit Tenet Healthcare Corporation, same-hospital paying admissions declined by 1.3% from Q1-08 to Q1-09. Tenet also said that its bad debt ratio of 6.8% had only increased by 0.1% from the same quarter last year. At Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), same facility admissions declined 0.9% in Q1-09 compared to Q1-08. HCA does not report its bad debt ratio in the same manner as Tenet. It did say that “same facility uninsured admissions declined 0.1% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the prior year’s first quarter.

ADD TO: Uninsured

It is noteworthy that both for-profit hospital companies reported only modest changes in the volume of inpatient admissions and equally modest changes in bad debt or uninsured admissions. It is a sign that, in the geographical regions where each company operates hospitals, increased unemployment rates in the community have yet to trigger a significant increase in uninsured admissions and/or increased bad debt related to uninsured care. This is auspicious, given that the current recession is now more than one-year old. Clinical lab managers and pathologists will want to keep an eye on uninsured patient ratios and associated bad debt to stay ahead of any developing problems.

MORE PEOPLE USE CELL PHONES THAN LAND LINES

As part of the National Health Interview Survey regularly conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers have determined that, for the first time, the number of households opting only for cell phone service now exceeds the number of house-holds which have only land lines. The CDC survey determined that 20% of U.S. households rely exclusively on cellphones, compared to 17% of households which have only landlines and no cellphones. CDC researchers observe that this is an important shift in American society. It demonstrates how cellphones are supplanting land lines as the primary source of telephone service to growing numbers of Americans. In order for laboratories to communicate with patients who no longer have land lines, it will be necessary to collect the patient’s cellphone number at the time when specimens are collected.

Dark Daily Update

dark_daily_logoHave you caught the latest e-briefings from DARK Daily? If so, then you’d know about…

…how CNN recognized “Heroes in Lab Coats” with a feature blog on its Web site. It stated that: “The wider world seldom gives them a thought until suddenly we realize we need them.”

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