Healthcare Executive Priorities: Key Takeaways from HIT Spring 2023 Conferences

Chief Executive Officers are seeking new strategies to address declining margins, clinician attrition and more demanding consumers. Below are three key insights from health system leaders at some of the most recognized spring HIT conferences and networking events including VIVE 2023 in Nashville, and both Becker’s 13th Annual Meeting and HIMSS in Chicago.

1. Clinician retention and recruiting remains a critical strategic priority.
  • During a CEO panel at Becker’s, Leong Koh, MD, President and CEO of Permanente, highlighted primary care recruiting and retention as a never-ending executive initiative in a highly competitive California market. Koh gathered clinician input and deployed an innovative new approach that matched practice preference to patient load. He offered primary care providers (PCPs) a choice between simple or more complex patient panels and assigned PCPs a remote scribe to incent them to not shy away from a sicker patient population. This approach has helped improve physician satisfaction and retention.
  • During a roundtable discussion at Becker’s moderated by me, attendees highlighted several approaches to staff recruitment. These include recruiting retired nurses as well as nurses that had previously left their organization. One nurse leader recommended partnerships with local colleges and universities to train and hire students to perform lower-level care tasks to increase the capacity of nursing staff. Technology is often used as a way to help nurses scale and enable teams to manage more patients per clinician, which is critical with shortages and the expected future state of the clinical workforce.
  • Another CEO at Becker’s mentioned the objective of “putting the right clinician on the right shift at the right time” as a way of ensuring better outcomes and happier clinicians. The implication? More sophisticated nurse and physician scheduling that better matches skill levels, patient acuity, and balanced workloads should be a focus of clinician leadership.
2. Consolidation of IT products and vendors remains an active initiative for many health systems.
  • Several clinician and IT leaders at Becker’s and HIMSS mentioned that new software purchases were being made only after great deliberation, with a focus on doing more with fewer strategic partners. Continuing to form trusting relationships and leverage their vendor partners was important. The opportunity to save on streamlined architecture is huge, with many hospitals only taking full advantage of a fraction of their multi-million-dollar systems.
  • One senior IT executive stated that they would rather take 80% of the functionality they receive from a current trusted partner than 95% from a new vendor. Often overlooked is all the security, contracting, staff training, and maintenance time required for staff dealing with many vendors at the same time.
  • Many health system leaders were focused on consolidation after an explosion of technology and rapid deployments early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Health systems are beginning to explore the benefits of vendor consolidation and search for vendors who can incorporate more of their organization’s needs with a unified enterprise-wide approach. Leaders at HIMSS were focused on spending to consolidate and see longer term returns rather than purchasing shiny new widgets and solutions. This aligns with symplr’s Compass Survey finding that most health systems have an excess of disparate solutions for healthcare operations which increase administrative burden and contribute to burnout.
  • Many leaders expressed a preference for enterprise purchasing over point solutions, with a focus on solutions that address workforce burnout, security and privacy, and patient acquisition/experience. Interoperability also remains a priority for software purchasing. Additionally, many health system leaders were focusing on reducing their footprint by becoming fully cloud-enabled, requiring them to make more IT investments and increase their security spend while reducing spend in other areas.
  • Health system leaders at ViVE spoke of dealing with high expenses and low revenues. The vendors that can transcend transactional relationships to provide high-yield, enterprise-level solutions are standing out and making a difference in the quality and quantity of care health systems have the bandwidth to provide.
3. Healthcare leaders feel that they are in the early stages of evolving their operations to new, more consumer-driven models.
  • John Couris, CEO of Tampa General, offered at Becker’s that healthcare is in a 50-year mission to break down operational and system silos for better performance. “We are not [a] health system [yet]…we are a conglomeration of businesses. We’re in the care coordination and sickness business,” said Couris. “We focus on coordinating care in a frictionless way.”
  • Liz Popwell, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at Stony Brook Medicine, commented in a Becker’s session that her organization is pivoting from an academic research medical center to being more consumer friendly. “We don't think of ourselves as a health system, we are a health platform,” said Popwell. She highlighted key initiatives to improve the patient experience, including improving home care access and redistributing urgent care centers across the catchment area to improve patient throughput and responsiveness and reduce ER visits.
  • Across the board, health systems are moving towards being more consumer friendly and engaging patients throughout their entire journey, not just their clinical journey. Solutions that improve patient experience and help drive patient engagement are critical.

Observations from ViVE, Becker’s, and HIMSS 2023 reiterated the challenges that health systems are facing, including low margins, workforce shortages, and lack of interoperability across an excess of vendor solutions that can take a toll on clinical and administrative staff. Vendor and software consolidation can address these challenges by saving valuable time and resources when it comes to supply chains and spend management, while also decreasing the administrative burden on healthcare workers through a consistent and connected experience, freeing up more time to spend providing quality patient care.

To explore symplr’s Connected Enterprise initiative designed to create efficiencies for health systems addressing urgent operational challenges, click here to learn more.


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