Blog | Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The 1% solution to hospital finances


The Downturn.

Global financial meltdown.

Sequestration.

"Fiscal realities."

Whichever your term of choice, non-profit entities like hospitals are finding their resources constrained as never before.

Costs are up (aren't they always?); revenues are down; market competition is fierce. How to bridge the gap?

New York's Beth Israel Hospital had a novel idea: They turned to philanthropy. [Well, not so novel of an idea--but a novel way of implementing it.] Development, it's called in the academic and non-profit worlds.

Situated in Manhattan, Beth Israel has the advantage of what we in health care refer to as a "silver spoon catchment area." (Okay, I made that up.)

Seems one of their patients, Huguette Clark, was a "reclusive heiress" of a bygone era (Gatsby, anyone?).

She was admitted to Beth Israel in 1991 at the age of 85 with skin cancer of the face (involving her lip) that made it hard for her to eat. She was malnourished, "emaciated," as described in the New York Times article you will want to read in its entirety.

When she was well enough to be discharged, Ms. Clark decided that she liked the security and comfort that the hospital provided her.

So she decided to stay. For the next 20 years.

She died at age 104 in 2011. Know what? There's a little, err, conflict going on over her last wishes. A $300 million estate is at stake. Hospital management, paid in full for the expansive a la carte services rendered, seems to think it's entitled to a bit more.

This post by John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, originally appeared at GlassHospital. Dr. Schumann is a general internist. His blog, GlassHospital, seeks to bring transparency to medical practice and to improve the patient experience.