The Future of Hospitals: Five Areas for Action

During the AHA Leadership Summit, U.S. hospital leaders agreed that organizations need to prepare and adapt for future operational effectiveness to not only survive but thrive. They highlighted five critical areas that leaders should focus on.

1) The Top Four Long-Term Leadership Priorities

Leaders are encouraged by the future of healthcare. Their long-term strategic priorities include: 

  1. Focusing on consumerism, making it easy for people to access care  
  2. Creating new opportunities for expansion such as developing ambulatory care models that lower costs and improve care
  3. Improving quality and reducing gaps in care by leveraging algorithms and predictive analytics
  4. Developing staff to support the changing delivery models and evolving patient needs

They also said that organizations should build a leadership succession plan with a focus on recruiting new leadership talent and empowering and upskilling existing staff into these critical roles.

What is your leadership’s vision and how does it support the future of your organization?

2) Workforce Retention and Recruitment

Mentoring existing and new staff builds a platform for future staffing needs. Hospital leaders highlighted their approach to retaining and recruiting talent.

For retention, leaders underscored the importance of keeping staff engaged, including providing growth opportunities and achievement rewards. They also recommended creating a culture with a common mission. It’s crucial that every single caregiver, from the patient transport tech to the nurse, is aligned with how they impact and improve care. Other clinical and operational leaders also embrace creative approaches to retain talent including retraining staff to fill open roles.

For recruitment, these approaches can also work, but other tactics can support future staffing, including:

  • Creating an internal staffing agency for specific needs, like travel nursing, which addresses unique requirements and can cuts costs
  • Building a talent pipeline by partnering with affiliated universities and by recruiting from the communities your organization serves

What is your organization’s approach to staff retention and recruitment? How are you being innovative in this area?

3) Creative Partnerships and Collaboration

“Our ability to learn faster from one another is critical,” said a hospital CFO about strategic partnerships and preparing for the future. Many leaders emphasized the importance of partnerships. Because great partnerships help you get to your goals faster and for less costs. Hospital leaders also highlighted their best practices when selecting partnerships:

  • Be open to working with different kinds of partners from payors to competitors 
  • Look for partners who specialize in specific areas that do it well
  • Identify partners who have like values to create a shared commitment to goals
  • Choose partners that can help you expand

Now that you’ve established a partnership, what’s next? “Be willing to strategically and closely partner with them. This approach will help you get to the root-cause of the problem you’re trying to solve,” said a hospital CEO. Leaders agreed adding that results from their creative partnerships and close collaborations supported their organizational needs, including increasing staffing and developing new operational models, which support the patients’ needs while lowering the cost of care.

What is your approach to strategic partnerships?

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4) New Operational Models Supporting Future Sustainability

The hospital of the future will have a consolidated physical footprint and will care for higher intensity, higher acuity patients. One hospital CEO noted that the ambulatory model will chart new paths in healthcare, offering the opportunity to scale and deliver care based on community needs.

Take hospital-at-home as an example of a newer model dictated by evolving care needs and cost constraints. This model’s objective is to redirect care when appropriate from the inpatient setting to the home while continuing to provide high-quality care, improve quality and increase health equity.

Over the next three-to-five years, hospital-at-home will be a dominant approach to healthcare delivery, according to a hospital CEO.

When launching a hospital-at-home program, a hospital vice president and clinical officer stated that physician and stakeholder engagement and buy-in up front was critical as well as:

  • Empowering teams to make decisions today that could be different tomorrow
  • Conducting daily briefings with the team to learn what’s working well and what’s not such as DME delivery and technology needs in the home
  • Cross-training staff for other needed functions

Providers and patients are encouraged by the hospital-at-home program.

  • Providers experiencing deeper patient relationships
  • Patients placing a high value on the experience — two hospital leaders stated that their NPS scores are >90%

5) Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity remains a major concern for all leaders. This year is on track to break records in the number of healthcare breaches, a leading cybersecurity expert stated.

  • 2020 – 425 hacks impacting 27 million individuals
  • 2021 – 518 hacks impacting 43 million individuals
  • 2022 – 287 hacks impacting 22 million individuals as of July

Attacks increased because of the rapid deployment of network technology leaving gaps in security.

Additionally, cyber threats remain agnostic to health system size. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small community hospital, you’re still at risk. While threats can come from anywhere, nearly 100% come from external “bad actors.”

The impacts from a cyber-attack are wide-ranging and it’s recommended that you map them all out. For example, it could take weeks to restore systems. This not only could put your organization at risk but your patients. A cybersecurity expert noted that any attack could also greatly damage your organization’s reputation in the long-term.

Don’t assume that if you haven’t had an attack that you aren’t at risk; they will continue to increase. The goal is to be in a constant state of preparedness. Develop a detailed plan as part of your overall strategy and consider all areas that could increase risk, including third-party partnerships. 

How are you staying ahead of the curve?

Although multiple challenges remain with today’s marketplace changes occurring at breakneck speed, hospital leaders are hopeful about the future and their ability to pivot to new models and remain profitable while providing high-quality care for their patients.