HBD-Blog 6

Leaders anticipate greater focus on people, planning, and technology

September 1, 2021
September 1, 2021

This blog post is part of our 2021 series on Healthcare's Big Disruption.

In April 2021, HealthStream surveyed more than 900 healthcare leaders to understand what they are thinking about the past, present and future of caregiving and our industry. The questions posed to them focused on healthcare improvement efforts, the organizational impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what's ahead for healthcare.

Healthcare executives remain optimistic

Expressing fortitude in the face of enormous challenges, healthcare executives are not letting the present devastation eclipse their hope for tomorrow. Surveyed leaders were largely upbeat about the ability of their organizations to handle whatever comes their way. When asked for their outlook on the future, a combined 92.6% of respondents answered that they were "somewhat optimistic" or "highly optimistic."

Making employees an even bigger priority

Where will leaders focus their efforts in the months and years ahead? The survey asked executives to evaluate 15 healthcare issues on a scale of 1 (low priority) to 10 (high priority). The four highest priorities, listed below, were all about healthcare employees:

  • Retaining staff
  • Attracting additional staff
  • Promoting self-care among nurses, physicians, other caregivers
  • Addressing staff burnout and mental health issues

How healthcare providers can champion their people

Going to extra lengths to support their employees will require greater one-to-one interaction, as well as adjustments to schedules, hiring, and policies. Chief nursing officers (CNOs) will have their hands full with addressing widespread burnout among their nursing staff and should work to counteract any resulting turnover. One solution is to promote self-care in ways that help the nursing workforce defuse some of the stress and pressure inherent to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief human resources officers (CHROs) should re-focus on employee retention and engagement as the demand for healthcare workers grows, fueled by an aging U.S. population in need of care. Chief technology officers (CTOs) can incorporate technology solutions that help make patient care safer and more efficient. They can bolster telehealth functionality to connect patients and doctors remotely. Together, these leadership functions can upskill and cross-train healthcare workers using online learning tools.

Focusing on people more than profits in coming years

Even though healthcare organizations have incurred significant losses during the pandemic, improving financial health was not the top concern for our surveyed executives. While important, future issues scoring higher than revenue included emergency preparedness, cybersecurity, and strengthening the supply chain. The two issues connected to capital, "Improving the financial health of your organization," and "Re-engaging consumers for primary care and elective surgery" were ranked 10th and 15th, respectively.

Change and crisis require more than incremental improvement

While healthcare leaders expressed disappointment by giving low scores to how well the past prepared them for the future, it's clear that they saw the importance of previous improvement initiatives. As more change arrives in the healthcare environment, leaders may seek new efficiencies for cross-training and managing resources. Thinking about the opportunities ahead, surveyed respondents chose optimism, tempered by the need to address serious personnel issues.

Disruption can lead to a new outlook on what and who is essential

The need for large-scale change is an important theme in the new eBook: Healthcare's Big Disruption—From Disruption to Optimism: How healthcare leaders are prioritizing change in light of the pandemic. Robin Rose, Vice President Healthcare Resource Group, authors three articles detailing the results from our 2021 survey, "What Are Healthcare Executives Thinking About the Past, Present and Future?" To understand how a crisis like the pandemic may inspire more proactive planning, and where the healthcare industry goes from here, download the eBook.

Download the eBook