Trends across technology, talent, care and operations are forcing healthcare leaders to take stock and anticipate where to focus their attention over the next three to five years.
To better understand the state of today’s healthcare industry, Huron surveyed 300 U.S. executives. Their feedback across five functional areas — strategy and innovation, finance and operations, clinical care, technology and people — offers a snapshot into where the industry stands and insight into how organizations can position themselves for the future.
Financial management emerges as top priority
When asked to pinpoint top healthcare trends and challenges this year as well as in three to five years, leaders had the same answer: financial management is their focus.
The top three trends are ranked below. The top three challenges included the same factors but in a different order, with “cost reduction/optimization” rising to the top and “redefining portfolio” rounding out the top three.
- Redefining portfolio (No. 1 for both timelines)
- Cost reduction/optimization (No. 2 this year; No. 3 in three to five years)
- Price increase/optimization (No. 3 this year; No. 2 in three to five years)
Leaders were also asked to rate top financial pressures on their organizations. Rising labor costs, pricing optimization, high cost of capital, supply chain and vendor costs and revenue cycle management all ranked in the top five, leaving leaders with a challenge: when the most pressing issues are spread across different functions, how and where should they focus their efforts?
How organizations can respond
A balancing act is required as organizations prioritize their bottom lines and reinvest across business areas. Huron’s research indicates a multifaceted approach — anchored by four core actions — is essential as leaders grapple with persistent and emerging challenges.
1. Make digital-first investments
Healthcare organizations indicate a growing prioritization of initiatives to help them move towards becoming more efficient, digital-first organizations. Leaders will focus on managing and using data for:
- Uncovering critical insight into patient behaviors.
- Improving treatment and patient care.
- Optimizing operational efficiencies.
- Making analytics-driven decisions.
Digital-first organizations bring technology and corporate culture together to become more agile, respond quickly to shifts in the market and remain financially viable amid volatility.
2. Adapt to an evolving workforce
As burnout increases and healthcare talent’s preferences shift, leading organizations are adjusting their workforce approach accordingly, with strategies including:
- Restructuring company and senior leadership.
- Investing in talent and employee training.
- Adopting flexible staffing and remote work.
- Expanding offering to include virtual care.
- Fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation.
All these measures aim to make the workforce more efficient, adaptable and resilient to change.
3. Advance care delivery and health equity
Value-based care models and consumerism are pushing leaders to rethink care delivery with a focus on health equity. Advancing care delivery includes taking measures to ensure that every individual has a fair opportunity to attain quality care. Leaders will look to improve quality of care and accessibility through:
- Investing in consumer engagement and retention.
- Ambulatory expansion planning.
- Integrating care delivery models across the continuum.
- Investing in care access and social determinants of health (SDOH).
Expect organizations to prioritize accessibility and affordability by adopting a more patient-centric approach.
4. Optimize operations and business models
Under pressure to balance growth while reducing costs, leaders are fundamentally rethinking how their organizations operate — especially with redefining portfolio top-of-mind. Initiatives to enable operational improvement and drive growth include:
- Reducing capital expenditure.
- Adapting service lines to reflect community needs.
- Increasing reimbursement accuracy.
- Optimizing supply chain management.
- Finding merger, acquisition and partnership opportunities.
As organizations navigate an evolving industry, leaders must embrace a balanced range of initiatives to resolve concerns over cost and drive growth.