Health systems need to accelerate their ability to change


Health systems have overcome many challenges in the past three years, and rapid change will continue for the next three, driven by shrinking margins, workforce shortages, and technological advances, according to executives of leading health systems.

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“The most successful health systems are able to offer the complete spectrum of care,” said Amy Perry, president of Banner Health. “On the care side, that means investing in fully integrated care, serving patients beyond acute care settings, and filling gaps in care to make health care easier, more convenient, and cheaper.”

Premium-based revenue will allow health care to prioritize outcomes and quality of life. Over the past year, there has been renewed momentum around value-based care, including more outpatient services and population health initiatives, to drive better quality at lower costs. Technology supports overall change, but it also requires a cultural shift.

“All this should be encouraged and combined with the smart application of emerging technology,” said Ms. Perry. “Health systems need to accelerate their ability to change.”

John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital, also sees faster growth as the key to a successful business plan for health systems in the coming years. He advocated a platform strategy for health systems focused on care coordination and patient experience to seamlessly operate the system.

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“If health systems are to continue to grow and survive in the coming years, they must dramatically invest time, resources, and people in developing strong ecosystems of care,” he said. “By this, I mean they need to build pathways where patients can access the specific type of care they need in an environment that most effectively, efficiently, and affordably serves the patient and provider.”

By the numbers, more healthcare is moving to an outpatient setting. Sg2 predicts that hospital capacity will change over the next decade, with outpatient surgical volumes expected to grow by 18% and outpatient total joints and spinal fusions increasing significantly. Health systems are also developing home hospital programs with growth in mind.

“Tomorrow’s hospitals are being planned today, so hospital leaders must not only consider the health care needs of the communities and patients they serve today but also continually look forward to ensure that care is changing well in the future,” said David Verinder, president and CEO of Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Health Care System.

Sarasota Memorial has invested more than $1 billion in the past three years in new facilities, including a new hospital, multiple cancer centers, and a behavioral health hospital. The system plans additional investments in projects and programs that are expandable and flexible as new technologies develop in the provision of health care.

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“It’s not just about bricks and mortar,” Mr. Verinder said. “In the coming years, health systems must integrate not only the latest medical equipment and robust clinical programs for patients; they must also harness the power of AI and digital advances to help predict, diagnose, and treat diseases, increase personalization and precision in medicine, expand patient access to comprehensive care, and improve efficiencies within the workforce.”

C-suites also thrive with a high focus on technology and innovation. While some health systems are eliminating the roles of chief operating officer and integrated roles, others are expanding their C-suites to include chief innovation officers, chief data officers, and AI executives.

“Over the next three years, we will begin to see a re-imagined C-suite with a broader skill base, including more culture change and organizational development roles,” said Matthew Painter, director of leadership development at UAB Health System and School of Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama. “This enables more collaborative leadership as functional executives work with others to reduce silos and find operational synergies.”

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Mr. Painter also sees an increased internal emphasis on talent development and team-based care, with health systems making major investments in building a pipeline of strong internal talent as well as changing the workforce to meet the changing needs of patients and communities.

“Care will begin to change to more decentralized, community-based care, combined with more home care and telemedicine,” he said.

The political and economic environment also has the potential to accelerate change. With 2024 an election year, health system executives are paying attention to the candidates’ views on health care and planning how the regulatory environment will change.

“Health systems will continue to evolve in the coming years, much faster than in years past,” said Steve Davis, MD, president and CEO of Cincinnati Children’s. “Some of this evolution will depend on the results of the upcoming elections. Some areas of potentially significant change include the increased use of telemedicine, particularly in addressing issues of access to care in more rural areas, a greater focus on preventive population health initiatives, and greater inclusion of AI tools into the diagnostic toolset, allowing for better integration of large data approaches with efforts around more personalized medicine.”