Underlying all these challenges is increasing pressure on the bottom line. The perennial problem of controlling healthcare costs has taken on new urgency, and margins remain cumulatively negative for US hospitals as of June 2022. Staffing shortages, the end of COVID-19 relief funds, supply chain problems and rising inflation suggest that pandemic-era financial issues will linger for years.
However, by meeting certain key challenges, hospitals executives can control and even reduce costs while improving quality.
1. Lack of interoperability
At least 70% of US healthcare providers still exchange medical information using a fax machine, according to Bloomberg Law. Even hospitals with the latest EHR technology may still use faxes. Why? EHRs often can’t share data across systems. Even within systems, data is often siloed. Sometimes, vital patient data never makes it into the EHR, can’t be properly interpreted or isn’t fully integrated with clinical decision support tools. Clinical decision support requires greater interoperability to be successful.
2. Optimizing clinical workflows
Clinicians and staff need access to actionable information at the point of care. But when workflows aren’t optimized, providers are forced to deal with incomplete information, alert fatigue and delays. For example, nearly half of clinicians responding to a KLAS survey said that their EHR system loads too slowly. EHR dissatisfaction is also a key factor associated with clinicians' likelihood of resigning. EHRs and integrated technologies need to make the best use of clinician time and efforts.
3. Personnel shortages and burnout
Staffing shortages continue to plague health systems. Shortages were US hospital CEOs’ top concern in 2021, according to the American College of Healthcare Executives’ annual survey, bumping financial challenges to second place for the first year since 2004.
Recruiting and retaining employees — especially registered nurses — is top of mind for many. A 2022 national nursing workforce report predicts that the nursing shortage will intensify through at least 2023. Burnout plays a major role, especially as the pandemic continues, but an aging workforce is also a major factor.
4. Keeping up with advances in medical science and information
As Deloitte notes, breakthroughs in digital medicine, gene therapy, nanomedicine, mRNA research and other emerging areas are happening at an “unprecedented and exponential” rate. Clinicians also need clarity on the latest evidence-based information in the rise of preprints from the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge for health system leaders is that these innovations are outpacing hospitals’ ability to keep up.
The Boston Consulting Group warns that “as the available therapeutic arsenal rapidly expands,” healthcare leaders and clinicians “must adjust their practices to keep pace with the advances.” Hospital leadership must stay abreast of the latest findings and information, and ultimately perform cost-benefit analyses of emerging options to determine how these innovations can best help their clinicians deliver care.
5. Advancing health equity
Healthcare inequities account for nearly $320 billion in annual spending. That number could rise to over $1 trillion by 2040, according a 2022 report from Deloitte.
Hospital executives are turning their full attention to care disparities faced by marginalized patient populations — including socioeconomic, racial and gender-based inequities — and finding that these problems are difficult to unpack. Biases can be deeply embedded in the language of clinical content such as patient education materials. They can also ripple outward between members of a care team. For instance, Black patients are 2.5 times as likely to have their patient behavior and history characterized negatively in EHR notes compared to White patients.
6. Patient safety
From medication and diagnostic errors to surgical mistakes, patient safety has always been a formidable challenge for health systems and their leadership. Hospital acquired infections (HAIs), for example, remain a significant burden for healthcare systems. After years of decline, US hospitals saw significant increases in HAIs in 2020, largely as a result of the pandemic.
Hospital executives and leaders face a number of challenges in while seeking to deliver the best possible patient care. Access to trusted clinical technology and evidence-based solutions can drive effective decision-making, improve quality and enhance financial and patient outcomes across the care continuum.
Learn how Wolters Kluwer addresses a range of healthcare challenges with through integrated clinical solutions and evidence-based information.