5 questions hospital CEOs want answered — and why

Hospital and health system CEOs have a lot on their minds, including questions about the healthcare workforce, meeting patients' digital expectations and navigating the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To gain more insight into executives' top concerns, Becker's asked hospital and health system CEOs to provide one question they need to be answered right now and share why it is a pressing question. Below are their responses, in alphabetical order. 

Larry Antonucci, MD. President and CEO of Lee Health (Fort Myers, Fla.)

Question: As a health system, how do we effectively transform from a hospital-centric system of care to one that fully utilizes its diverse set of assets to keep the delivery of care sustainable and affordable over time?

Why this question is important: Lee Health's imperative is to evolve with the ever-changing healthcare environment to provide the best possible care for our patients. With governmental payers prioritizing value-based care over fee-for-service, health systems need to be laser-focused on delivering care for the right cost, in the right place at the right time to be rewarded. This shift forces health systems to take a different look at their local footprints and transcend hospital-centric decision-making. Consumer-based thinking is required to effectively make this transition and set healthcare systems up for long-term sustainability that provides better healthcare at more affordable costs for patients. 

James Fanale, MD. President and CEO of Care New England Health System (Providence, R.I.)

Question: Given the current COVID-19 resurgence, will the federal and state governments, as they did in the past, be willing to step in and assist financially struggling healthcare systems to ensure they are resilient into the future?

Why this question is important: During the initial stages of the pandemic, the federal and state governments stepped in and provided enormous financial support to struggling healthcare systems. Without this support, many health systems would have gone bankrupt and, importantly, would be unable to support/serve their communities to the extent needed. The results of the pandemic continue to linger on in terms of very challenging staffing situations such as nursing. Most systems are using temporary nursing agencies to care for patients, resulting in significant financial constraints. Should the number of hospitalized patients resurge, the capacity of healthcare systems both operationally and financially will be further stretched,  leading to a requirement for public financial support.

Roxanna Gapstur, PhD, RN. President and CEO of WellSpan Health (York, Pa.)

Question: How can health systems best balance consumer demands for greater digital options, information security and a human-centered experience?

Why this question is important: The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated healthcare's adoption of digital care options. Safety, patient access and remote monitoring enabled safe care during the pandemic. Adoption is one aspect of digital care; however, protecting consumer and patient privacy and developing the kind of experience people will seek out over and over is the challenge. 

Healthcare systems will be required to segment their populations and apply data-driven insights to our services and care. We must make healthcare affordable and convenient, providing patients what they want before they ask for it. This means we need to integrate the human experience into our technology options while creating connections for our patients and teams grounded in relationships, not transactions. And we need to accomplish this while protecting patient privacy and delivering better healthcare outcomes. We are on a journey to reimagine healthcare, and it demands continuous improvement across all of these priorities.

Rod Hochman, MD. President and CEO of Providence (Renton, Wash.)

Question: What is the future of the healthcare workforce?

Why this question is important: We needed an answer to this question before the pandemic. But it's even more imperative now. We've had caregivers serving on the front lines of COVID-19 for nearly 20 months. It takes a personal toll, especially when you lose as many patients as we have to COVID. The mental health and wellness of our nation's healthcare professionals has to be the No. 1 priority for every health CEO in America. Caregivers play such an essential role in our communities. They can always be counted on to step in whenever there is a need, whether it's a pandemic, a car accident or any of the other mass tragedies we've had to respond to, from gun violence to wildfires and hurricanes. We need to make sure our caregivers have the support they need to focus on their own healing and well-being.

We also need to get more people into the healthcare workforce. And with the way medicine and technology is evolving, we need to plan now for the new roles we'll need in the future.

Michael Young. President and CEO of Temple University Health System and Temple University Hospital (Philadelphia)

Question: As a major safety-net hospital with limited revenue growth opportunities, my question is: How will we be able to maintain our superior staff in a rapidly increasing wage market? 

Why this question is important: While many health systems with a more affluent patient base have enjoyed decades of positive financial performance, many safety-net hospitals struggle due to an economically challenged and medically complex patient mix, dwindling government reimbursement, and inability to shift costs to more lucrative lines of business. Temple University Hospital provides the best care available with outcomes that match and exceed national benchmarks. Intensifying wage pressures deepen the challenge to maintain the talented workforce needed to assure continued access to that superb care.

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