Hospital Consulting: Impressions versus Reality

Even though hospital and healthcare consulting in it’s true form, performed by specialist consultants, is a young domain within the healthcare industry, it has provided clients with tremendous value over the past twenty years. A seasoned hospital consultant can provide services within a turnkey offering that are high in both quality and impact. Right from market entry and viability studies, medical planning and designing, medical equipment planning and procurement advisory, and IT systems planning, to the creation of policy documents, staff training, and commissioning of a healthcare facility can be managed smoothly and effectively by an experienced hospital consultant.

Many hospital consulting firms are lean with specialized professionals on their payrolls, including the health consulting arms of large global consulting organizations. The intent for many hospital consultants is to not attempt to work on several projects simultaneously, but to invest their time and expertise on a select few, in order to obtain optimal results, across various facets of the project. The primary objective is to pay utmost attention to every project undertaken.
Despite the experience and proficiency, a hospital consultant brings to a healthcare project, a lot of promoters in need of such services are unaware, and at times unconvinced of the value they add. People in need of hospital consulting services at times also seem to worry about the intent of hospital consultants and impressions/expectations are contrary to the reality.

Let’s see what some of them are.

Impression/Expectation

Reality

I have been in charge of my healthcare facility long enough to be able to understand and address its requirements myself, along with my team. The hospital consultant cannot add value.The hospital consultant has been involved in various stages of various projects, with varying natures, over different geographies, with a different set of challenges. They bring forth a more holistic understanding of problem solving in a healthcare facility.
I can tap the experience of my doctors to design my new facility/expansion project within the same facility. I need not engage the services of a hospital consultant.While doctors add great value as clinicians and understand processes, their knowledge on architectural nuances, norms, material, and optimum design techniques is limited. Hospital consultants have specific knowledge in these areas, which influence the longevity, robustness and patient centric effectiveness of the facility
The biomedical department and purchase department at my hospital can independently purchase medical equipment at the lowest possible prices. What value will a hospital consultant add?Because of their work with various medical equipment manufacturing companies, over several projects, a hospital consultant is likely to negotiate better overall terms. Price alone is not the only critical factor, but the level of technology for your facility, suitable features, and foolproof AMC/CMC contracts are essential as well. A hospital consultant can address these needs due to their experience with different types of hospitals and vendors.
My biomedical engineers are efficient in maintaining all medical equipment and therefore increase the life and durability of these equipment. A hospital consultant will just be an additional cost.Biomedical engineers primarily work with medical equipment during preventive maintenance and coordinating with vendors during breakdowns. However, the clinical staff and technicians use these devices regularly. Lack of knowledge on subtle practices while using these equipment, may cause certain equipment/parts to have a shorter life. Or the results produced during diagnosis may be inaccurate (for example, ill maintained ECG electrodes lead to poor output and hence require certain simple procedures to ensure accurate results). While preventive maintenance is important, preventive practices while using the equipment are equally critical. A hospital consultant can impart this training.
The intention of a hospital consultant is to access our hospital data and expose unproductive practices, thereby making senior administrators (CEO, Medical Director etc.) seem ineffective in the eyes of the managementThe intention of the hospital consultant is to help as many hospitals as viable, to improve their performance and enhance patient satisfaction. This can only be done if the hospital consultant is transparent and honest in his approach and produces optimum results. In fact, if senior administrators were to recognize the skills and knowledge of a hospital consultant that brings an outside perspective, positive results will be obtained and the management will only be pleased. Hospital consultants are not here to replace administrators, but just add another dimension to their proficiencies.
I am spending so much money on my new project on architecture, construction, medical equipment, licenses, etc. Why engage a hospital consultant for viability studies when I can have my CA do it? This example can also be extended to marketing activities, costing activities and tariff rationalization, IT systems advisory etc.The cost of viability studies is a miniscule percentage of the entire hospital project cost. However, it is the most essential exercise that helps determine not only the go/no-go status of the project, but also identifies the nature and size of the hospital, services to be offered, level of technology to be used, the type and number of clinical and non clinical staff required, bed distribution, business strategies, tariff structures, and short & long term projections among other critical factors. This study is made robust only by domain knowledge and expertise offered by a hospital consultant. A CA is not aware of these factors that are major contributors to a viability study.
My hospital is turning a profit so I don’t need to study or audit my departments.Hospital consultants come across several healthcare facilities that are profitable and are yet performing below their true potential. Why make X when you can make 2X, 3X….? By analyzing departments within a hospital, a hospital consultant can identify avenues for greater growth, and ones that are redundant and non profitable individually. This allows for reallocation of services and resources for better patient care, more footfalls, and greater revenues. Profitability isn’t the outcome merely of increased revenues but also better cost management and containment.
The hospital consultant is an additional cost to the projectThe hospital consultant potentially reduces long terms costs and time overruns in a project
The fee of the hospital consultant seems to be high compared to the time spent on the assignmentThe hospital consultant charges for the knowledge acquired over years of practice, and therefore the value addition to your project. A consultant’s fee needs to be measured in terms of return on investment
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This list by no means is exhaustive but only provides a flavor to the potential gaps in understanding the niche role a hospital consultant plays. A hospital consultant is not only a layman’s expert for people from the outside looking to venture into the industry, but is also an expert’s expert. An investment banker, wealth manager, and financial consultant invariably engage the services of a CA, not because they don’t understand finance, but because the CA lends that niche expertise to ensure a thorough job is done.

If you put a frog in boiling water it will jump out instantly. However, if you put a frog in water that is at room temperature and begin to boil it, the frog will boil to death without realizing it. It’s not that insiders are ineffective or not knowledgeable, but an outside perspective always helps to unravel the most basic roadblocks that are often overlooked.

It is important to select a hospital consultant that has the expertise, understands your vision, and passion behind your new or existing projects, but it is also important that the consultant is honest, transparent, ethical, and passionate about helping you attain your goals. While it is important to work with a hospital consultant that best suits your needs, it is also important that you do work with one to ensure optimum, timely, and long term results.