Five top challenges affecting healthcare leaders in the future

Healthcare is a big topic which presents even bigger challenges for healthcare leaders.

For centuries there has been much debate about how best to implement affordable healthcare coverage for millions of uninsured Americans has taken center stage in the political arena (Wood, 2011). Today’s leaders are hard pressed to find solutions to multiple complex issues which impacts the ability to successfully implement cost-effective programs, maintain efficient operations and services, staff and trained employees, and support other healthcare initiatives.

The future of organizational sustainment in healthcare requires skilled leaders to plan for any potential problems. Over the next five to ten years, healthcare leaders should expect to encounter a plethora of challenges including regulatory and policy changes; medicinal and technological advancements; funding; education; and ethical issues. Leaders must realize a combination of these challenges could quickly consume time and money for medical research, facility upkeep, equipment overhaul, and operational training. Research suggests technological advancements will present additional challenges with programming, control, and support issues. Indoctrination of new systems requires leaders to educate themselves, their staff and the vulnerable public on the use of new systems, processes, and programs. This article provides foresight information about the future challenges healthcare leaders will face and suggestions to help them overcome.

Healthcare rising costs

As more people strive to live longer, healthier and more active lifestyles, healthcare concerns increase and so does the costs. Research reveal healthcare costs and spending often rise at rates exceeding inflation, and is expected to increase in the future. The Society for Human Resource Management present that the Office of “1 the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that aggregate health care spending in the United States will grow at an average annual rate of 5.8 percent from 2015 through 2025, or 1.3 percentage points higher than the expected annual increase in the gross domestic product.” This causes a huge concern for leaders as they seek to provide coverage for their employees.

Leaders must find alternative methods to combat the rising costs of care. They must do the research to find funding, grants and contributors to help them conduct research, set up programs and implement processes at the pace of change. The Health Services Research Information Central (HSRIC) provides a list of “grants, funding and fellowships” leaders might consider helping them train staff members, open up public information sites or labs for processing paperwork and other initiatives.2

Healthcare regulatory challenges

Healthcare has taken center stage in the political arena under the Trump administration. As tension and uncertainties mound regarding Trump’s threats to repeal and replace Obamacare, insurance and medical executives scramble to determine “what business is going to look like in the years ahead” (Gomes, 2016). Larry Levitt, a senior executive with the Kaiser Family Foundation emphasized any transition from one program to the next will require time for insurers to adjust to the “reverse disruption” and “overhaul to how individuals buy policies” (Gomes, 2016). Healthcare leaders must inform themselves, and staff on how to handle the changes in coverage. Currently, there is a “noticeable gap between the belief that change is necessary and actual support for specific reform plans designed to achieve that change” (Wood, 2011). Leaders will be challenged to counter frustration and confusion from Americans, once deemed otherwise uninsurable, who have formed a sense of security their current coverage, argues Wood (2011).

Regulatory challenges drive up the cost of providing services and care. As the Trump administration strive to regulate Medicare and Medicaid eligible healthcare providers are overwhelmed by regulated “changes and new reporting requirements” (Brown, n.d.). Research provide that healthcare leaders are further burdened to comply with a variety of newly revised standards including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). To combat these challenges, the healthcare provider needs actively engage in awareness and information sharing regularly. Studies suggest leaders must implement document control programs, compliance training, routine audits and address non-conformance incidents immediately utilizing integrated healthcare platforms.3

Medicinal and technological advancement challenges

The practice of medicine and technology has created opportunity and challenges in the way providers practice medicine today and in the future. Today’s health organizations are facing physician shortages and need “low-cost alternatives to office visits” and in-patient care (Austin, Bentkover, & Chait, 2016). Five to ten years from now, leaders can expect more of a shift from the traditional office visits and prescreening in favor of virtual and cyber doctor patient interactions. Sanicola (2016) argue “telemedicine” – the use of “electronic communication” such as “two-way video, phone, email, wireless tools, and other forms of telecommunications technology.” Telemedicine “works well for treating common conditions such as colds, flu, pink eye and sprains” and “more easily manages patient care for chronic illnesses that require daily interventions” adds Sanicola (2016). The rapid change requires leaders to acquire and develop methods for maintaining and accessing private sessions and data of patients.

Saslow (2016) argue the pressure and “growing influx of patient data, legal requirements for strict privacy and security, rapidly advancing clinical technology increases costs, and other factors. At a minimum, leaders should explore innovative ways to manage and store the information adequately adds Saslow (2016). Heathfield, Pitty and Hanka (1998) posit leaders must “understand and predict the behavior of systems and provide important knowledge to inform further developments.” Once the leader understands the system, they can prepare training strategies for the staff and the patient. The leader’s training efforts must be a continuous initiative to keep up with the continual change of technology and medicine in the future.

Training and education challenges

Professional development is the key. Healthcare leaders must take steps to assess, develop and fine tune key personal and professional skills to remain proficient (Northouse, 2013). Most training initiatives, per Dunn (1995) remain centered around “traditional clinical interview with its focus on acute illness,” but healthcare providers will be challenged to change that dynamic. The future will require healthcare leaders to take more of a hands-off approach; involve patients more in personal care; offer alternatives to current practice and make themselves and staff available to forms of communicating with the patient without a trip into the office (Gomes, 2016).

Ethical challenges

Ethical challenges in healthcare is a big deal. Recent news stories support this claim with headlines about ethical violations of healthcare providers. In 2016 the British Broadcast Center (BBC) reports Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, was accused of providing misleading medical research which led to the deaths of seven patients (Kremer, 2016). More recently an Olympics Physical Therapy doctor, Larry Nassar was found guilty and sentenced for sexual misconduct. These incidents hurt the character and trust of the medical leaders. In addition, it creates legal costs and rise in malpractice insurance coverage for the agency.

Giving the very serious ramifications, healthcare leaders must ensure their behavior and their employees are above reproach. Bruning and Baghurst (2013) suggest “reform requires ethical decision-making from leaders” because these leaders influence “various relationships” and “creates fundamental successful changes in healthcare.” Sound “ethical principles to transformational leadership improves healthcare relationships and alleviates stress and tension produced by change” (Bruning & Baghurst, 2013). Leaders must understand the success of the organization; heavily rely on their ethical behavior. Building trust earns money and funding and reduces unnecessary liability costs for the agency.

Conclusion

Healthcare managers must be able to provide direction and guidance to organizations about roles, responsibilities, and functions (Gomes, 2016). The leader must devise and revise strategies everyone can understand and follow. Thompson et al. (2011) argue “decisions made by healthcare managers not only focus on ensuring that the patient receives the most appropriate, timely, and effective services possible, but also address achievement of desired performance targets.” Ultimately, decisions made by an individual manager affect the organization’s overall performance (Northouse, 2013).

Leaders should not take on the many challenges “posed by complex health care systems” therefore, it takes “a shared, distributed, or collective approach to address complex problems with diverse perspectives, talents, and skills” (MacPhee et al., 2013). Leaders must build a collaborative environment whereby everyone is involved in the process of developing strategies to help overcome the challenges as they arise. Staying abreast of the changes and implementing a plan of action will create successes for healthcare leaders and their organization for years to follow.

Call to Action

With so many changes on the horizon healthcare leaders must meet others where they are to positively impact those around them. They must continue to engage in new research, develop and assess issues to create the best approach and delivery system that meets the needs of their staff and patients. No one approach works best always, therefore leaders must routinely explore models and methodologies to help them tackle challenges, including building partnership with other leaders; self-development; recruiting and implementing continuously training programs for staff; research alternatives and promoting information awareness for everyone involve.

Author’s Bio
Prinsez Teel is a third year Doctoral Strategic Leadership (DSL) student at Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA. Her concentration is leadership development and coaching and the successful transformation of individuals, organizations, and communities. As a United States Air Force Veteran, she is especially interested in enhancing the quality of life for elderly Veterans by helping them to obtain benefits and entitlements, process claims, and understand medical processes and instructions in a technologically advancing era.

1 Information was provided by the Society for Human Resource Management “Managing Health Care Costs Jan 11, 2017” article. Retrieved from The Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that aggregate health care spending in the US
2 Information was provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine Health Services Research Central. retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/hsrinfo/grantsites.html
3 Information retrieved from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services “Regulations and Guidance”. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Regulations-and-Guidance/index.html

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