- Healthcare organizations have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic
- While COVID-19 cases are declining, financial challenges for healthcare organizations continue
- Realizing cost reductions and increased efficiency will require healthcare technology consolidation
We all know 2020 was a challenging year, and I’ve noted the ramifications that the healthcare industry is likely to face in 2021. “Doing more with less” is no longer just a smart financial goal – long ago, it become a necessity for healthcare organizations in order to survive and to succeed.
As anticipated, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a trend of patients avoiding or delaying care, and now we have the data, according to a recent year-over-year analysis from Kaufman Hall.This trend has led to decreased volumes, margins, and revenue for healthcare organizations.
Comparing January 2020 and 2021, the report found:
- Emergency department visit volume dropped by 24.7%
- Adjusted discharges fell 17.6%
- Operating room minutes fell 16.6%
- Adjusted patient days fell 8.3%
- Inpatient volumes fell 2.3%
- Outpatient revenue fell 10.4%
- Total expenses rose, with total expense per adjusted discharge rising 25.4%, labor expense per adjusted discharge rising 30.1%, and non-labor expense per adjusted discharge rising 24.4%
Addressing these declines in acute care organizations will require a range of new or expanded strategies and tactics – looking at all costs, as well as patient behavior drivers. This may include an extensive review of labor and care delivery expenses – as well as a comprehensive look at their existing technology infrastructures. After payroll and benefits, typically one of the largest areas of cost are technology related investments and expenditures. For this reason, I believe healthcare technology consolidation will be key for organizational COVID-19 recovery.
The value of healthcare technology consolidation
The technology infrastructure of most healthcare organizations is riddled with conflicting, poorly communicating software and tools. Not only is it costly to engage in several vendor partnerships, but the IT support required to manage numerous forms of technology can be substantial.
Within our area of focus, clinical collaboration, clinicians commonly use several different communication modalities – EHR, pagers, phones, on-call scheduling directories – that make care delivery cumbersome at best, and an inefficient barrier at worst. This inefficiency is not only costly to the organization (as patient throughput is commonly at the top of healthcare organization challenges); it contributes to clinician burnout.
Juggling multiple, often outdated and poorly integrated systems adds to the clerical burden and workload frustrations clinicians feel – and we know burnout skyrocketed among clinicians during the pandemic. Technology infrastructures shouldn’t compound the problem.
Doing more with less begins with healthcare technology consolidation. By doing a complete assessment of existing infrastructures, healthcare leaders can begin to identify opportunities for consolidation and find the right technology partners that can begin to simplify their IT footprints.
There cannot be a lack of continuity between the technology deployed and the tools clinicians need to do their jobs effectively.
What other challenges are healthcare leaders facing?
In addition to technology consolidation, healthcare leaders are arming themselves with solutions to do more with less, as they look to the future.
Looking for more information? A recent webinar from HealthsystemCIO.com will join Andy Crowder, Chief Information & Analytics Officer for Atrium Health, Shafiq Rab, MD, Chief Digital Officer & System CIO for Wellforce, Ryan Smith, CIO for Intermountain Healthcare, and Jose Barreau, MD, CEO of Halo Health to discuss today’s healthcare priorities and tomorrow’s challenges.