All hospitals, regardless of size and organizational structure, benefit from comparative data on financial condition and performance. The unique reimbursement and organizational structure of critical access hospitals (CAHs) make it important to have financial indicators that capture their own circumstances for performance assessment. CAHs differ from urban and other rural hospitals that are paid under the Medicare Prospective Payment System (PPS) in important aspects that affect the most appropriate way to measure financial condition. Unlike PPS hospitals, CAHs receive cost-based reimbursement for inpatient and outpatient care, and the incentives, financial management, and utilization practices under these two payment methods differ substantially. There are also organizational differences between CAHs and other hospitals that may affect financial performance; for instance, CAHs have relaxed staffing rules under Medicare, and they have limits on bed-size and average length of stay (and low volume hospitals have been found to face substantially more annual variation in demand for services, making financial planning difficult).
This Briefing Paper presents state and national median values of the twenty-two financial indicators included in the CAH Financial Indicators Report, a report that is distributed to each CAH administrator annually. As part of ongoing work of the Flex Monitoring Team, these indicators were specifically designed to capture the financial performance of CAHs. In order to identify the indicators that were most relevant to the financial performance of CAHs, a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of four individuals knowledgeable in CAH financial and operational issues, data, and reporting practices was selected to provide advice to a research team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The TAG evaluated frequently used indicators of hospital financial performance for their applicability to CAHs.1 Their evaluation relied on three criteria: feasibility (whether the indicator can be accurately calculated from Medicare cost report data2 ), importance (whether the indicator is an important measure of the financial management of CAHs), and usefulness (whether the indicator is useful to CAH administrators). The TAG retained 13 of the most frequently used indicators from the review. In addition, 7 other financial ratios were added that are not commonly used in the financial assessment of larger hospitals, but that group members believed capture important attributes of CAH financial management. Two more have been added since.
The resulting 22 indicators fall under six domains: profitability, liquidity, capital structure, revenue, cost, and utilization. In the pages that follow, a brief description of the domains and the indicators within them is provided, along with a table that allows comparison across states. The Appendix to this report includes the median values for each indicator by state, enabling the values for all indicators for one state to be viewed on a single page. More detailed information about the definition and interpretation of the indicators can be found in the document “Briefing Paper No. 7. Financial Indicators for Critical Access Hospitals May 2005”.
The Flex Monitoring Team also produces state-specific reports with more detailed results.