Where is the future of healthcare headed?

August 10, 2021
August 10, 2021

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

In April 2021, HealthStream addressed the evolving healthcare environment by inviting healthcare leaders to fill out a 14-question survey to better understand “What Are Healthcare Executives Thinking About the Past, Present and Future?” This three-part inquiry looked at wins, struggles, and future priorities.  

What do healthcare leaders think about the future and where do they expect to focus?

In light of the pandemic, we asked them how they felt about being ready for the changing healthcare environment.

Specifically, we asked the following question:

On a scale of 1 (highly pessimistic) to 10 (highly optimistic), how optimistic are you about the healthcare industry’s ability to handle the challenges it will face over the next decade?

900+ healthcare leaders – 63% with a leadership role in Education or Nursing – gave their opinions. Leaders responded that they are largely optimistic about their ability to handle the future. Less than 8% of respondents were pessimistic about where healthcare is headed and their organizations’ ability to handle challenges successfully.

Reckoning with change

Healthcare organizations have seen more than their share of challenges in recent years. First there was the drive for healthcare reform and multiple industry initiatives. Then, external challenges like staff shortages, demographic change, unaffordability, and others worked together to make operations even more difficult. The devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic made life even harder for providers, from excessive stress on staff and widespread burnout in response to the complexity of keeping patients and employees safe, to serious organizational financial distress. Many decisions about organizational strategy and operations will be made based on executives’ outlook for the future and whether they are optimistic about where the caregiving industry is headed.

For clarity about where leaders expect to focus their resources in the near future, we inquired about 15 potential priorities. Below are some examples.

How would you expect leaders to rank the following:

  • Addressing staff burnout and mental health issues
  • Improving the financial health of your organization
  • Investing in technology to make patient care more efficient
  • Promoting self-care among nurses, physicians, and other caregivers
  • Retaining staff
  • Strategizing on how to handle a future infectious disease outbreak

What else did we learn about healthcare's priorities for the future? 

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. In the eBook, three articles by Robin Rose, Vice President Healthcare Resource Group, detail the results from our 2021 survey with an eye toward the future. A crisis like the pandemic may have been what was really needed to inspire meaningful change in healthcare, and these surveyed executives give us some ideas about where the healthcare industry goes from here.

Download the eBook