"Hotspotting" is a new strategy in healthcare meant to reduce the medical expenses of the highest-cost patients in your system. The basic idea: "super-utilizers," or patients who have been admitted to a hospital three times in a brief time period, are identified. Using a range of healthcare team members, patients’ lifestyles and needs are analyzed to determine where their treatment costs can be cut without compromising their care.

As a hospital administrator or physician, you may wonder how well it works. There are both pluses and minuses to consider. Take these considerations into account to seeif hotspotting may be appropriate at your facility.

Hotspotting promotes increased case organization.

The hotspotting process, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, usually involves a hospitalist or resident who identifies a patient with frequent hospitalizations about to be discharged. The patient is interviewed about his or her needs and lifestyle while still an inpatient. Then, once the patient goes home, he or she is accompanied by a member of his or her hotspotting team (like a social worker) to follow-up outpatient appointments.

The patient's billing records are analyzed, and then a care report is drawn up offering solutions for reducing cost and enhancing the patients' well-being. The obvious upside to such detail is a highly focused approach to a patient's overall wellness.

Yet statistically, hotspotting may not have far-reaching implications.

A new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology led by Amy Finkelstein found that hotspotting has almost no impact on patient outcome. It's important, then, to evaluate whether it's an approach you should try in a widespread fashion. A trial with patients you have identified as candidates may be the best way to try hotspotting out at your hospital.

Hotspotting could lead to overprescribing.

Some doctors are now taking a risky approach, more freely to giving antibiotics to patients in order to satisfy those patients' short-term needs, according to research from David Broniatowski at George Washington University.

Applying this trend to hotspotting, your team must stay committed to reducing the long-term risks of antibiotic overuse to the population in general. You should emphasize the importance of not overprescribing antibiotics or any drug to a participating patient.

Hotspotting could catch medical complications swiftly.

Because a patient is monitored closely, it can be much easier to catch redeveloping or new symptoms during their outpatient timeline and prevent treatment reactions. Patients' concerns can be more easily and quickly addressed if case workers act as liaisons to their PCPs or specialists, thereby curbing unnecessary readmissions or emergency room visits.

Hotspotting could help your hospital run more efficiently.

Freed-up bed space, lower administrative costs, less red tape to cut through and less paperwork to do could all help you provide key services and make your staff load a lot lighter. Discuss the idea with your staff, read and learn all you can about the process, and carefully evaluate whether hotspotting works in your institution's and patients’ favor.