Staff shortages led to 66% of providers operating under full capacity: Kaufman Hall

Workforce shortages persist as a key issue for hospitals and health systems, keeping costs high and limiting patient access, a new Kaufman Hall report shows. 

The report, published Oct. 24, is based on a survey of 106 hospital and health system leaders across the U.S. and offers more evidence that their road to financial recovery will be a long one.

"Many of the organizations we interviewed have recovered from a year of negative or breakeven operating margins," the report said. "But most foresee a slow climb back to the 3% to 4% operating margins that help ensure long-term sustainability, with adequate resources to make needed investments for the future." 

Sixty-six percent of respondents said their organizations had to operate under full capacity because of staffing shortages at some point in the past year. The same proportion said the same for last year's report. 

A few more key findings: 

  • Sixty-three percent of respondents said their organizations are struggling to meet demand for patient access to physicians. Meanwhile, 32% said patient concerns or complaints about access to physicians are increasing.


  • Utilization of contract labor is declining, with only 4% of organizations saying they are experiencing increased utilization, compared to nearly 30% last year. Nearly all respondents are pursuing one or more recruitment and retention strategies. 


  • Despite staffing pressures, no respondents were confident that their organization has fully optimized automation technologies they've invested in. 


  • Nearly half of respondents said volumes for patient care in outpatient surgery and clinic settings are above pre-pandemic levels. 

"Having enough healthcare workforce to meet patient demand continues to be one of the most pressing concerns for hospitals and health systems," Lance Robinson, the head of Kaufman Hall's performance improvement practice, said in a news release. "It's clear that for many, this is a long-term issue. The older generation of providers is moving into retirement without a robust talent pipeline in place to fill the gaps retirees leave behind." 

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