Trends in Healthcare – the impact on hospitals
Although socioeconomic factors are unique to each location (and across time), the provision of quality healthcare worldwide will be subject to similar ‘waves of change’, where the astute facility will adapt and perform, and those that do not make any adjustments, will find the environment even tougher.
Outpatient care will grow faster than inpatient care, with some outpatient services undergoing exponential growth, such as PET and CT volumes. Oncology will demand more resources as we go into the second decade of the 21st Century, with numerous surgical procedures also experiencing greater usage, quite simply due to advances with more assured prognoses.
Shorter hospital stays will be the goal. The 2-day hospital stay is set to become the mainstay, with 2-day discharges expected to triple in 10 years. The question is not if hospitals should set up unique staffing structures, optimized flow process and dedicated units, but quite simply when.
Healthcare is not retail. It is exceptionally complex and extraordinarily interlinked. That means there are always exceptions. Some services are completely unrelated, requiring that they be strategically decentralized on the one hand, yet strategically adjacent to existing resources. It’s like the advice you hear about your desk & productivity – if you use something every day, keep it within arms length – if you use it monthly, file it away. However, healthcare management is seldom that simple.
Hospitals are typically set up along service lines. Since most service lines are dominated by inpatient care, outpatient care is often the ‘poor cousin’ of planning – never getting the attention it deserves in the early stages. At best, outpatient care developments are uncoordinated – having a strategic business unit focused on outpatient services can make a marked difference to both profitability and service standards.
It is difficult for hospitals to think out the box. Staffed by highly trained professionals who depend on prior evidence to guide their actions, growth-limiting oversights abound. Of all the strategic management tools available, the ability to ‘step back’ is probably the most valuable. That means thinking about the facility in terms of the community it serves and the future – not in terms of ‘what we do right now’. Design thinking should ideally come after a deep reflection on what the hospital should be in the future.
That means your thinking should already encompass the paradigm change of the hospital of the future not being a place, but a connected space supported by IT, infrastructure and the often forgotten ingredient – culture. The centralized place will make way for hubs, spokes and satellites, providing the patient with the best quality care available. Medical technology has perhaps accelerated faster than our ability to manage it. The result, for example, is that drug management has become the limiting factor – not the efficacy of the drug itself. Although modern healthcare will be different, the decades-old challenges continue, including high costs, medical efficacy, and the complex issue of insurance coverage.
Resources in terms of knowledge, skills and tools are available for the optimal management of all healthcare facilities – it is the decision that needs to be made that tomorrow may not quite resemble today.