The healthcare industry has emerged from the pandemic beset with a mix of new challenges and familiar problems. Patient health is generally poor, clinical quality is decreasing, clinician experience is strained, and health spending is high overall.
Amid this real-time instability, there are massive paradigm shifts happening just below the surface that have the potential to fundamentally reshape where care is delivered, who (and what) delivers care, and how care is paid for. These shifts are not new, but recent acceleration provides the latest insight into where the healthcare industry is headed.
As we enter the new year, healthcare leaders have a generational opportunity to understand the forces that are contributing to these seismic changes and position their organizations for success across the next decade.
Keep reading to learn where Advisory Board predicts the healthcare industry is headed in 2024 and beyond.
Traditionally, hospitals have served as the central hub for care. However, with health systems grappling with financial challenges and an uptick in mergers and acquisitions by national ecosystem players, the role of the hospital is evolving.
Hospitals are becoming components of the healthcare puzzle, rather than the default anchor for all care services. This shift is accelerated by national ecosystem players who continue to acquire more cross-subsidizing and complementary assets outside of the hospital. Many of these players are motivated to right-size hospital utilization.
As these entities broaden their portfolio across the healthcare continuum, they have the potential to coordinate and influence patients throughout their care journey, ultimately managing utilization and spending. This shift may solidify a move away from hospital-centric service delivery and care management across loosely affiliated provider organizations. Instead, care delivery may be directed by corporate entities via outright ownership at the ecosystem level.
How to prepare: With the emergence of ecosystems of care, the risk of patient disintermediation is high and traditional front doors to care will change. Leaders must reassess what role they want to play in their market, identify which key services and patient segments where they have a competitive edge, and determine how to partner or compete effectively on those areas.
Workforce challenges continue to be among healthcare leaders’ greatest concerns, and unfortunately, the current and future labor pool of clinical staff will never be sufficient to handle the growing population of older, more clinically complex patients.
While turnover rates for some roles have stabilized and organizations have decreased reliance on staffing agencies, the greatest opportunity for healthcare leaders to create a sustainable clinical workforce will come from advances in technology – especially those enabled by artificial intelligence.
While technology won’t replace humans, it will become a more integral member of the care team. The future of care delivery will lie in a technology-dependent care team approach, where healthcare workers focus on their greatest comparative advantages over technology. In the quest for top-of-license care, clinician roles, decision making processes, and workflows will evolve.
How to prepare: The intersection of the current workforce crisis and rapid advancements in technologies creates an opportunity for organizations to strategically invest in technologies that align with broader strategic goals like top-of-license care and worker retention. Leaders should begin to plan for how workers’ roles, training, and compensation may shift overtime with increased technology adoption.
In recent decades, healthcare has predominately focused on procedures: innovations increasingly have enabled reduced invasiveness and improved safety, and utilization and cost management have centered on standardization and comparison shopping.
However, the innovation landscape is starting to shift given today’s growing array of transformative, high-cost, and personalized therapies and diagnostics. The emergence of bespoke care brings us closer to patient-centric care becoming a reality. Specialized providers will utilize innovative medical devices and consumer technologies to gather clinical data to better understand diseases, personalize treatment recommendations, and proactively intervene in patient care.
The emergence of bespoke care offers the possibility of patient-centric care. However, this shift poses significant strategic, financial, and operational challenges that will require fundamental transformation at both the clinician and organization level. Comparison of cost and quality will be more difficult, cost management and financing will become more complex, and care management more intricate with even more stakeholders involved to deliver more longitudinal patient care.
How to prepare: Legacy business strategies won’t be an immediate fit for this future of bespoke care. From health systems to purchasers, organizations must adapt their financing mechanisms, delivery structures, and competitive strategies to the emerging diversity of unique treatments and diagnostics.
Take a deeper dive into these three predictions, and the forces that are driving them, by downloading a complimentary excerpt of our annual “What CEOs need to know” executive briefing. If you already have an advisory.com account, you can access the full version here.
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