As a whole, the healthcare industry is grappling with innumerable challenges – many of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Leadership teams for both big and small medical practices must now tackle technological advancements, rapidly evolving regulations and new expectations from patients.
In their recently released report titled, Top health industry issues of 2021: Will a shocked system emerge stronger? PwC researchers shared, “While in 2020 many healthcare organizations saw their financial plans obliterated, patient behaviors radically shift and virtual care explode, in 2021 they will work to put the system back together. Not to how it always was – but in a way that reimagines healthcare delivery, reconnects broken pathways and makes a giant leap toward a consumer-centric healthcare system.”
Here’s a look at the top three challenges healthcare leaders are facing in 2021 and beyond.
- Strengthening Cybersecurity
While cybersecurity concerns certainly aren’t a new hurdle for healthcare leaders, the pandemic exposed just how susceptible confidential patient information is to data breaches. In September of 2020, for example, over 9.7 million healthcare records suffered from data breaches, an increase of 348.07% compared to August, according to HIPAA Journal.
Much of the surge can be attributed to the seemingly overnight adoption of new digital health initiatives as a way to navigate the social distancing and shelter-in-place protocols of COVID-19. As solutions like telemedicine continue to grow in popularity, it’s essential for healthcare leaders to ensure they are safeguarded from potential threats when it comes to sensitive patient data.
- Rising Adoption of Telehealth Solutions
The use of virtual visits in lieu of in-person patient care grew from 11% in 2019 to 46% in 2020. While vaccinations continue to be distributed on a massive scale, it doesn’t mean the adoption of telehealth practices will slow anytime soon. In fact, 76% of patients said they are either highly or moderately likely to utilize telehealth services for their future healthcare needs.
According to the aforementioned PwC report, “In the year ahead, the industry will work to determine which virtual visits make the most sense, and where and how they should take place. Some specialties, such as mental health, may find stronger footing via virtual visits. Healthcare provider executives surveyed by HRI most frequently cited mental health and psychiatry (58%), family medicine (56%), obstetrics and gynecology (46%), and pediatrics (44%) as the specialties in which their organizations will offer virtual visits in 2021.”
In a similar vein, there are certain areas of medicine where telehealth simply cannot work as a substitute for face-to-face office visits – especially when it comes to senior care. Healthcare leaders will need to devise new healthcare staffing strategies to ensure they aren’t creating any coverage gaps where patient demand is concerned. Additionally, adequate telehealth staffing is pivotal for combating physician burnout, decreasing turnover and increasing patient loyalty.
- Creating a Quality Patient Experience
Between advancements in technology and rising healthcare costs for patients, hospitals and medical facilities are facing an incredibly competitive landscape. Patient reviews, brand reputation and the ability to attract and retain patients will all rely on the quality of care an organization is able to deliver.
In today’s on-demand world, patients are seeking a streamlined experience, including greater access to information surrounding their health, such as immunization records or the ability to schedule an appointment online. Convenience is key. Minimizing patient wait times and ensuring patients don’t feel rushed during their visits are crucial facets of facilitating a strong patient experience.
In order for hospitals and facilities to deliver quality experiences, they must be properly staffed. Healthcare staffing models that account for seasonality and patient fluctuation by leveraging contract and augmented staffing solutions will see an increase in patient and provider satisfaction levels while simultaneously improving their bottom line.
Growing labor shortages among nurses, physicians and healthcare workers will continue to impact healthcare organizations in the coming years. Those that don’t adapt will see patient retention and facility revenue decrease over time. To stay competitive in our current tumultuous landscape, healthcare leaders must start implementing long-term strategies aimed at strengthening their healthcare staffing initiatives, as well as the patient experience.
To learn more about how the experts at Polaris can help your company bridge staffing shortages with high-quality healthcare candidates, contact us today.