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Hospital Execs Focus on Outpatient Growth, Healthcare Costs

A recent survey showed that hospital executives plan to tackle outpatient growth and healthcare costs reductions in 2017.

In a recent survey, hospital executives ranked outpatient growth and healthcare cost reduction as their top 2017 concerns

Source: Thinkstock

By Jacqueline Belliveau

- At the top of hospital and health system priority lists for 2017 is expanding patient access to ambulatory or outpatient care settings, according to 183 C-suite executives recently surveyed by the Advisory Board.

Ranking at number six in last year’s survey, healthcare executives plan to push for more ambulatory and outpatient care access in 2017 in response to the growing healthcare consumerism trend.

Expanding their organization’s outpatient procedural market share also came in as number three on the top healthcare executive concern list with 55 percent of respondents.

“This shift in topic rankings reflects a change in hospital and health system priorities in part driven by current discussions on healthcare policy reform,” stated Chas Roades, Advisory Board Chief Research Officer. “Improving cost-effective access for consumers, who are likely to bear more direct financial responsibility for the cost of care, will be a growing concern for healthcare providers in the coming decade.”

“Our survey shows executives are considering new strategies to remake their cost structures to respond to the changing environment,” he continued.

With the healthcare consumerism trend, patients are becoming more responsible for their healthcare decisions. A June 2016 InstaMed survey found that three-quarters of healthcare providers experienced an increase in patient financial responsibility in 2015, especially as high-deductible health plan enrollment grew.

As consumers bear more of the financial brunt for their healthcare, more patients are seeking cheaper and more convenient care options, which is oftentimes outside of the hospital. A recent Journal of Internal Medicine article pointed out that as healthcare consumerism increased, more retail healthcare clinics emerged. By 2015, more than 2,000 retail clinics existed.

The newest Advisory Board survey points to how healthcare executives plan to respond to healthcare consumerism. By focusing on boosting ambulatory and outpatient care access, C-suiters aim to ensure their hospital’s or health system’s patients receive high-quality care at lower healthcare costs from their organization.

Other top healthcare C-suite concerns also indicated that hospitals and health systems will continue to focus on reducing healthcare costs. With 57 percent of hospital executives, developing innovative approaches to cost reduction ranked as the second top concern this year.

Another 54 percent of hospital C-suiters identified minimizing unwarranted clinical variation as their fourth most concerning topic. Last year, this topic topped the list with 53 percent of healthcare executives reporting it as their greatest concern along with improving care quality.

Controlling avoidable healthcare utilization ranked as the fifth most worrying topic with just under half of the executives (49 percent).

Researchers noted that the top hospital executive concerns dealing with outpatient care and healthcare costs reductions represented a significant shift in priorities. The four greatest concerns each drew a larger percentage of extremely interested executives than last year’s top concern.

Value-based purchasing models, such as MACRA, are also motivating hospitals and health systems to change their top concerns and focus more on providing high-quality, affordable care across the care continuum.

The Advisory Board explained that the recent shift in healthcare executive concerns may indicate that hospitals and health systems view their physician relationships as potential selling points compared to other providers in their markets.

“The uncertainty on timing and specifics of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as MACRA, are creating more momentum from physicians to seek support and alignment with health systems,” stated Lisa Bielamowicz, MD, Advisory Board Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Research. 

“While demand for physician employment is at a near-record high, hospitals should use this moment to refocus their physician strategies on building a network centered on delivering accessible, lower cost, and reliable healthcare,” she added. “This will advantage systems regardless of the specifics of payment reform.”

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