4 Trends Healthcare Executives Need to Know to Stay Competitive

Healthcare executives face new and growing challenges around value-based care, finances, employee burnout, and staffing shortages.

To avoid financial penalties, executives need to lead their organizations in exceeding value-based quality thresholds that grow higher and higher as incentives in regulatory programs are structured on competition. To stay competitive, executives need to keep pace with evolving physician and staff competencies to deliver the rising standards of quality care.

Making these challenges even more difficult, they come amidst staffing shortages, high rates of employee dissatisfaction and burnout, and pressures to lower costs. The only sustainable competitive advantage is the ability to change and evolve better than the competition.

So, how do executives meet the challenge to provide quality-based care, while facing staff and financial pressures?

One way is to thoroughly develop staff competency, which equips the organization to meet future objectives, improve employee dissatisfaction and burnout, and reduce turnover. However, organizations that only focus staff development strategies on meeting today’s challenges will likely fail, but those that equip staff with competencies needed in the future based on trends, are more likely to stay competitive.

Four of these future trends include demographic, political, and economic factors, along with internal factors, like staff satisfaction and retention.

1. Demographic Factors

The country is growing older and more culturally diverse. The way in which these populations affect an organization’s needs and abilities to provide quality care must be analyzed.

  • What new services will be needed?
  • How will these growing populations within the workforce impact the ability to provide quality care to all patients?
  • Where are the gaps?
  • What competencies will be needed?

2. Political Factors

The U.S. healthcare system is undergoing a paradigm shift in the way care is delivered and measured largely driven by the Affordable Care Act enacted under former President Barack Obama. It has been a rocky transition for healthcare organization trying to align with new ways of doing things. Now, a new administration is in place with goals of reform, and suddenly…uncertainty is back.

Predicting the full effect of political and economic factors and how they will impact healthcare organizations in the future is more challenging than ever. But experts agree that pressure to provide better value is unlikely to change. This means value-based performance measures that reward better quality are here to stay. Organizations need to develop strategies for staff development based on evidence to improve quality outcomes. Hospital-acquired conditions, readmissions, and patient experience measures will likely continue to threaten competition.

  • How is your organization’s performance in these areas?
  • What areas most need improvement?
  • What skill gaps could be closed with education and training?

3. Economic Factors

An analysis of financial pressures facing hospitals by the Congressional Budget Office in 2016 stated, “the magnitude of the financial challenges hospitals will face in the future depends crucially on whether and to what extent they can improve their productivity over time – that is, whether they can produce the same output (treatments and procedures) at the same level of quality with fewer inputs.”

That means they will need to improve productivity to stay in the game. Experts have recommended a long list of strategies to improve productivity and most organizations are including a variety of them in their arsenal. One that has shown success is cross-training, which creates an advantage of staff flexibility. When multiple workers can handle multiple tasks, people can shift in and out of jobs as needed—reducing the need for as many workers.

For example, Duke University Health System took on a program for team leaders in environmental services, where they were trained to handle a variety of tasks to avoid the need to call in a ‘special-project’ person or postpone a task until staff resources could be available to handle the issue.

Cross training has other benefits too: it breaks up monotony by giving workers more challenges and variety, creates a better sense of teamwork, allows managers to discover which workers are best suited for different positions, makes it easier to discover problems when a position isn’t delegated to a single person, and improves customer service with more people being available to assist with their needs. Whatever productivity strategies an organization is using, they will likely change the staffing dynamic.

  • What cross training strategy is your organization using?
  • What skill gaps will it create in the future?
  • How will staff development strategies need to address them?

4. Internal Factors: Staff Satisfaction and Retention

High rates of job dissatisfaction and burnout are increasing across healthcare settings and continue to be major contributors to turnover. Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion and an inability to face demands of the job and engage with others. Not only does it have a negative effect on clinicians’ physical and mental health, it poses a threat to patient safety.

Several organizations, including the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic have highlighted addressing burnout as a priority. Studies have confirmed that education and training on topics like mindfulness, communication, stress management, resilience and others can improve clinicians’ sense of wellbeing and burnout.

  • How can your organization include training to improve staff dissatisfaction and burnout that may also improve clinical outcomes at the same time?
  • With management style being a contributor to clinician satisfaction, what management competencies need to be developed?

Final Thoughts

Skill sets will continue to change and grow in complexity as new dimensions of quality are included in performance-based compensation initiatives. Therefore, proactive staff development requires planning through analysis of future trends that will drive organizational objectives. Addressing these four factors—demographic, political, economic, and staff satisfaction—will help your organization provide quality care in a constantly changing and competitive healthcare landscape.

How are you developing staff competency to meet future objectives, improve employee dissatisfaction and burnout, and reduce turnover?

Learn more about how Relias helps hospitals hire, onboard, and develop staff competency.

Rebecca Smallwood

Healthcare Learning and Development Specialist, Relias

As a registered nurse for more than 27 years, Rebecca has experience across a wide spectrum of settings, including: rural and urban hospitals in medical/surgical, and ED clinical roles; school nursing; public health epidemiology; ambulatory surgery center; infection control; quality management; organizational development; and education in hospital, academic, and commercial organizations. She has authored a myriad of live and web-based courses on over 50 regulatory topics, patient safety, patient experience, and others. Her passion for education developed over the course of her career while helping patients, professionals, and organizations leverage learning to achieve their goals. Improving patient care by helping others gain new knowledge, skills, and attitudes is her mission and the driving force behind her work.

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