The pressures on the healthcare industry and changes in the environment are creating what should be an interesting 2017 that will be full of challenges. Here are some of the major ones that will face executives and managers.
Affordable Care Act
Now that major providers, practitioners, executives, insurance companies, employers, and others have rearranged their business models, processes, and operations to accommodate ACA-mandated changes, the structure of the legislation is in question. A new president and Republican majority in both houses will likely seek significant modifications at the very least, although the promise to toss the entire approach and create something new is apparently under reconsideration. This could prove to have one of the biggest impacts on the healthcare industry since the ACA initially passed. Executives will need to pay close attention and have experts available who can parse new language and requirements.
Healthcare consulting firm Premier Inc. released its semiannual publication Economic Outlook, which examines economic and industry trends. Staffing could become a challenge. Almost three-quarters of the industry executives interviewed (72 percent of 52) expected that personnel shortages could impede progress in moving away from a fee-for-service model. Fifty-one percent said they lacked the nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other “healthcare extenders” that they needed.
Premier also found that cost management strategies are a major issue. Almost two-thirds of leaders expect to invest more in supply chain management and 98 percent say they will further standardize many items rather than allow individual physician specifications. Also, expect problems with drug prices and availability to continue. More than 90 percent of the executives found this a problem area and had seen no relief in the last year.
Moving to electronic healthcare records and otherwise making use of information technology is encouraging. But Premier said that executives find interoperability a problem. A lack of widely accepted industry standards will ensure the problem continues for the time being.
Healthcare organizations need to address inequality in the workplace. Wage disparity by gender is a big area, with even female physicians earning eight percent less than their male colleagues. Discrimination plays a role. Also, many LBGTQ workers hide their sexual orientation out of fear of mistreatment. Not only are such unequal treatments of workers wrong, but when there are staffing shortfalls, antagonizing or mistreating employees is also self-defeating.
The challenges facing healthcare will require innovation in all parts of the industry. Enabling and supporting innovation will be difficult.
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