Top Challenges Hospital CEOs Face in 2022

Hospital CEOs

In 2021, CEOs continued to shepherd hospitals through the lingering COVID-19 pandemic while preparing to meet future challenges. In 2022, COVID-19 will continue to stretch hospitals thin, and CEOs will need to maximize limited resources to rebuild and move forward.

The goal will be to learn from the pandemic and build back hospitals to be more resilient for future health crises.

To accomplish this goal, hospital CEOs must tackle these challenges in 2022.

Staffing

The biggest challenges hospital CEOs will face in 2022 is attracting, hiring, retaining, developing, growing, and engaging talent.

The U.S. is facing a significant shortage of healthcare staff from doctors and nurses to IT staff and patient care technicians. Some estimate that more than 15 percent of U.S. hospitals experienced a critical staffing shortage. The ongoing impacts of physician and staff burnout contribute to making it difficult for hospitals to find the right talent, at the right price and with the right value proposition.

With demand for qualified staff skyrocketing, hospitals are instituting several strategies to train, recruit and maintain qualified talent. Examples of these strategies, include:

  • Cross-training staff from various areas of the hospital.
  • Actively designing and deploying virtual technologies and online learning into nursing workflows to reduce burnout, build resilience and increase capacity and redundancy.
  • Increasing automation to eliminate manual administrative and clinical work and save time for patients and staff.
  • Collaborating with universities and colleges to spur training through residency and mentorship programs, providing earlier clinical staff placement at hospitals facing staff shortages amid patient surges.
  • Advocating Congress to address the worsening physician shortage by increasing Medicare support for graduate medical education (GME).

CEOs will need to think outside the box to meet staffing needs in 2022. It is important to remember that an increasing percentage of staff is likely seek a role where they can have a broader impact and contribute to society. It is increasingly likely that these factors will outweigh a promotion or raise, so CEOs need to find creative ways to engage staff and recognize their contributions.

Competition

In 2022, hospitals will face increasing competition in several areas.

Major retailers will continue to provide primary care patients with convenient options that turn primary care into a one-stop shop. These retailers leverage extensive consumer data to get patients in and out of their stores with quick transactions.

Hospitals also face competition from virtual healthcare which continues to grow as the pandemic lingers.

These trends will help improve access to primary care, especially for those who don’t live near a hospital, and put pressure on hospitals to innovate to compete. Patients increasingly expect convenience, ease of access and quick responses. As a result, many hospitals will need to invest in improving their patients’ experience.

Patients will also continue to pay an increasing portion of their medical bills. This will pressure hospitals to adopt affordable and predictable costs. It is also driving a trend toward basing costs on patient outcomes rather than quantity of service.

The increasing competition combined with strong margin pressure will continue to motivate hospitals to consider strategic merger opportunities. These mergers enable a hospital system to capitalize on economies of scale, giving them more purchasing power, stronger networks and more negotiating leverage. Larger organizations can also more easily mobilize resources needed to stay competitive in 2022 and beyond. 

Technology

Technical debt

Technology holds the potential to help hospitals become more competitive and streamline the patient experience. The e-commerce industry provides good examples of ways to leverage technology to increase automation and use big data and artificial intelligence to drive decision making.

However, many hospitals are still struggling with technical debt, the cost of additional rework caused by implementing an easy, but limited solution instead of implementing a better approach that would take longer.

A three-pronged approach is needed to address technical debt: simplify, modernize, and innovate. For example, many hospitals need to consolidate the array of different ERP systems, health record systems and applications to maximize the usefulness of the data.

Telehealth

Social distancing and stay-at-home measures forced healthcare providers to rapidly adopt telehealth and virtual care models, bringing new opportunities and challenges.

Telemedicine is likely to persist well beyond the pandemic and become a permanent and increasingly prominent feature of healthcare into 2022 and beyond.

Looking to 2022, healthcare providers must continue to strengthen and formalize training to design and implement best practices for telehealth. CEOs should be prepared to capitalize on the telehealth boom, but also beware that current state and federal regulations are likely to be amended several times. Staying on top of these changing requirements will be a key to successfully leveraging telehealth.

Cybersecurity

The pandemic combined with the increasing reliance on technology contributed to an explosion of cyberthreats that threaten hospitals’ bottom lines. This is expected to continue in 2022 and hospitals must develop ways to protect the patient information, scans, results, software, platforms, and trusted email addresses that are increasingly transmitted online.

Systematic development is needed to protect systems and data to make them less vulnerable to attacks. Healthcare providers will also continue to increasingly rely on soft data enabled by rapidly improving technology. Data on patients can be stored in a database online and offline to reduce the risk it is compromised.

Rebuilding patient trust

Misinformation about COVID-19 carried on social media worked its way into hospitals. In 2022, hospitals will need to increase access to trustworthy, evidence-based content for providers and patients

Promoting content that reflects patients’ individual experiences and helps clinicians provide clear, accurate, consistent, and useful information will be critical to cut through the misinformation and rebuild trust with patients. This critical strategic component will need more attention in 2022.

A healthier, more equitable 2022

Tackling these challenges in 2022 will help build a stronger hospital system. A system where patients and healthcare workers benefit from technology that enables flexible work schedules and locations, more equitable access to healthcare, collaboration and training, equitable access to evidence-based information, and a shared understanding of how innovation, collaboration and automation can improve healthcare.

Prioritization will also be more important than ever in 2022. Given all the challenges hospitals will face in 2022, leaders must prioritize to ensure they make the greatest impact with limited resources.

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