How to Design the Cost-Effective Clinical Workforce

Learn why the old assumptions guiding clinical network strategy no longer hold true—and how leading organizations are deploying the clinical workforce of the future.

Hospitals and health systems have long relied on a common clinical network strategy: amass as many physicians as possible. But patients are becoming active retail shoppers for both coverage and care, there may not be a physician shortage, and disruptive innovators are entering the market.

To compete, hospitals must build a cost-effective clinical network that has the right number of providers to match emerging patient demand, is more collaborative and accessible, and reliably delivers high-quality, low-cost care.

Why your clinical network strategy is outdated

Driven by fears of a looming physician shortage and the volume-based incentives of the fee-for-service payment system, hospitals have focused on partnering with physicians to fuel growth. But this strategy is based on three outdated assumptions:

More physicians in our network means more patients
Physicians no longer serve as patients’ sole health care agents. Patients still turn to their physicians for guidance, but they have to factor narrowing networks and rising deductibles into their care decisions, too. They also have access to more information and new tools—including thousands of mobile apps—offering unprecedented transparency into provider cost and quality, as well as insight into conditions and treatment options.

There’s a scarcity of physician talent
Shortage projections are based on outdated estimates of physician supply and demand. New care models and technologies are improving physician efficiency and increasing effective supply, while population health efforts and the retail insurance environment are reducing demand.

We face a limited set of competitors
Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS are all investing in storefront delivery models. Technology firms are building new platforms to connect patients with providers, threatening to bypass established patient-provider relationships. And innovative providers are redesigning primary care models, setting a new standard for patient access and convenience.

The clinical network of the future must deliver three distinct products

While legacy network design assumptions are faltering, hospitals' clinical network aspirations are evolving.

The goal isn’t just to amass the most physicians in a market, but to build a cost-effective clinical network that has a smaller, more purposefully designed workforce that matches emerging patient demand, better labor cost efficiency, more collaboration, and the ability to meet the new standard for patient access.

Hospitals and health systems need a new clinical network strategy, designed to deliver three distinct products each with a different provider staffing model.

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