Trends clinical leaders, hospital execs say will shape healthcare beyond 2024

As hospitals face new pressures and begin aligning with their 2024 strategic plans, the key focuses of many hospital leaders are the same: how AI will shape healthcare, finding workflow solutions, recruiting and retaining nurses, and combating workplace violence.

The following responses were shared directly with Becker's from five clinical and hospital leaders throughout the U.S. 

Note that responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Sunil Madan, MD, chief medical officer at Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center in Lanham, Md.: We believe that telehealth will increase in terms of its use within other peer institutions. We also believe that AI will have an increase within healthcare institutions. There are many different possibilities with the exciting field of artificial intelligence, whether it's to make processes more efficient, making workflows more efficient, to taking on burdens for the workforce. We believe that there are a lot of new applications within the artificial intelligence base that will be trending and increasingly increasing use of healthcare systems.

We're also focusing a lot on the safety of our workforce, and we always consider the safety of our patients... Especially as we see aggression and violent incidents happening more and more. Members of the healthcare workforce are being threatened or put in danger at times. We also work with advocacy groups at state level and local government levels to support protections for healthcare workers.

Cassie Lewis, DNP, RN, Chief Nursing Officer of Bon Secours' Richmond, Va., market: Unfortunately, workplace violence has just skyrocketed in the last couple of years, which is really sad that we're even having to have a lot of conversation around this, but it's the reality of what we're challenged with every day. 

Even our own staff and their communities have noticed there's a lot more anger in the world right now and a lot more unrest and distrust. So I think we have to stop to understand how we can prevent this. How can we de-escalate patients and their families and the people that we interact with every day? How do we de-escalate them to where we can get them to not move into a violent act if they're starting to become verbally aggressive? 

We've been really working with our emergency departments and even our inpatient units now and behavioral health, with what de-escalation training is, and we've been training a lot of staff on how to de-escalate situations quickly so it doesn't become that you know, violence asset we're, you know, is going to be much more detrimental. So I think that's one component: Really ensuring that your staff adequately have training around de-escalation, very consistent healthcare. 

Vicky Tilton, DNP, RN, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at Valley Children's Healthcare in Madera, Calif.: Faculty shortages are being addressed, and nursing programs are aligning with organizations supporting workforce exposure and clinical experience opportunities, emphasizing advanced degree attainment and professional development. We will see fostered collaboration between academic institutions and healthcare facilities to enrich educational experiences and prepare nursing graduates for the evolving healthcare landscape.

Staffing models are expanding by incorporating specialized roles and leveraging advanced practice nurses to optimize care delivery and address workforce needs. Employers are proactively budgeting for contingency labor and invest in role specialization to ensure operational efficiency and adaptability in meeting patient care demands.

Andrew Hertler, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Evolent in Arlington, Va.:There will be an increased use of AI and automated tools (e.g., natural language processing and optical character recognition) to assist in coverage determinations in order to reduce provider abrasion and avoid delays in care. As a result of these efficiencies, complaints about prior authorization will decrease.

Given the higher costs in hospital settings, there will be increased efforts to manage to the most appropriate, cost-effective site of care. Payers will encourage utilization of ambulatory surgical centers for direct surgical care and community offices, pharmacies and health clinics for outpatient care.

Caroline Carney, MD, President of Behavioral Health and Chief Medical Officer, Magellan Health in Maryland Heights, Mo.: Expect a U-turn in behavioral health access:

I believe 2024 will be a watershed year for behavioral health access. Make no mistake: the increased demand for behavioral health services will still outpace the number of available providers in the coming year. However, I anticipate that we’ll start to see the reversal of another long-standing industry trend.

For many years, we've seen hospital after hospital reduce or eliminate their behavioral health beds—limiting their communities' access to behavioral healthcare. Over the coming year, I predict we'll see a growing number of hospitals decide to go in the opposite direction by converting med/surg beds into behavioral health beds and in growing residential treatment. In combination with virtual visits and other solutions, this could signal the beginning of wider access to care. Further, as long as telehealth regulations from the pandemic remain unchanged, we will continue to see growth in telehealth services including partial hospital and intensive outpatient treatments.

David Feinberg, MD, Chairman of Oracle Health in Austin, Texas, formerly CEO of Geisinger Health, and UCLA Health: Doctors are spending nearly twice as much time on administrative work as they do engaging with patients. Having spent years in the clinical setting seeing patients and leading large health systems, I’ve experienced the burnout this causes firsthand and feel the urgency to alleviate the administrative burdens plaguing providers today. With the promise of generative AI and large language models, we have a unique opportunity to dramatically reduce the time caregivers spend on administrative work, so more attention can be focused on patient care. Solving this challenge is a passion for me and a major focus for Oracle Health in 2024.

Frank Chen, MD, psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer for Houston Adult Psychiatry: As clinicians, we need to be much more proactive about the discussion of long-acting injectable (LAI) medications rather than leaving it as a last resort or feeling that they're not giving patients enough credit to take their medications on their own. It's not a secret patients struggle to take their medications, and we want to continue to preserve quality of life.

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