Ketul J. Patel, Division President, Pacific Northwest; Chief Executive Officer, CommonSpirit Health; Virginia Mason Franciscan Health

There is no shortage of challenges to confront in healthcare today, from workforce shortages and burnout to innovation and health equity (and so much more). We’re committed to giving industry leaders a platform for sharing best practices and exchanging ideas that can improve care, operations and patient outcomes.


Check out this podcast interview with Ketul J. Patel, CEO at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and division president, Pacific Northwest at CommonSpirit Health, for his insights on where healthcare is headed in the future.

In this episode, we are joined by Ketul J. Patel, Division President, Pacific Northwest; Chief Executive Officer, CommonSpirit Health; Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, to discuss his background & what led him to executive healthcare leadership, challenges surrounding workforce shortages, the importance of having a strong workplace culture, and more.

Health systems in 10 years: 20 predictions from top executives

The executives featured in this article are all speaking at the Becker’s Healthcare 13th Annual Meeting April 3-6, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

Question: What will hospitals and health systems look like in 10 years? What will be different and what will be the same?

Michael A. Slubowski. President and CEO of Trinity Health (Livonia, Mich.): In 10 years, inpatient hospitals will be more focused on emergency care, intensive/complex care following surgery or complex medical conditions, and short-stay/observation units. Only the most complex surgical cases and complex medical cases will be inpatient status. Most elective surgery and diagnostic services will be done in freestanding surgery, procedural and imaging centers. Many patients with chronic medical conditions will be managed at home using digital monitoring. More seniors will be cared for in homes and/or in PACE programs versus skilled nursing facilities.

Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD. Founding Dean and Chief Executive Officer of Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine (Pasadena, Calif.): The future of hospitals might not actually unfold in hospitals. I expect that more and more of what we now do in hospitals will move into the home. The technology that makes this transition possible is already out there: Remote monitoring of vital signs and lab tests, remote visual exams, and videoconferencing with patients. And all of this technology will improve even more over the next 10 years — turning at-home care from a dream into a reality. 

Imagine no longer being kept awake all night by beeps and alarms coming from other patients’ rooms or kept away from family by limited visiting hours. The benefits are especially welcome for people who live in rural places and other areas with limited medical facilities. Who knows? Maybe robotics will make some in-home surgeries not so far off! 

Of course, not all patients have a safe or stable home environment where they could receive care, so hospitals aren’t going away anytime soon. I’m not suggesting that most current patients could be cared for remotely in a decade — but I do think we’re moving in that direction. So those of us who work in education will need to train medical, nursing, and other students for a healthcare future that looks quite different from the healthcare present and takes place in settings we couldn’t imagine 10 years ago.

Shireen Ahmad. System Director, Operations and Finance of CommonSpirit Health (Chicago): The biggest change I anticipate is a continuation in the decentralization of health services delivery that has typically been provided by hospitals. This will result in a reduction of hospitals with fewer services performed in acute settings and with more services provided in non-acute ones.

With recent reimbursement changes, CMS is helping to set the tone of where care is delivered. Hospitals are beginning to rationalize services, including who and where care is delivered. For example, pharmacies often carry clinics that provide vaccinations, but in France, one can go to a pharmacy for care and sterilization of minor wounds while only paying for bandages, medication and other supplies used in the visit. I would not be surprised if, in 10 years, one could get an MRI at their local Walmart or schedule routine screenings and tests at the grocery store with faster, more accurate results as they check out their produce.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, there will always be a need for acute care and our society will always need hospitals to provide care to sick patients. This is not something I would anticipate changing. However, the need to provide most care in a hospital will change with the result leading to fewer hospitals in total. Far from being a bleak outlook, however, I believe that healthier, sustainable health systems will prevail if they are able to provide a greater spectrum of care in broader settings focussing on quality and convenience.

Gerard Brogan. Senior Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer of Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.): Operationally, hospitals and health systems will be more designed around the patient experience rather than the patient accommodating to the hospital design and operations. Specifically, more geared toward patient choice, shopping for services, and price competition for out-of-pocket expenses. In order to bring costs down, rational control of utilization will be more important than ever. Hopefully, we will be able to shrink the administrative costs of delivering care.  Structurally, more care will continue to be done ambulatory, with hospitals having a greater proportion of beds having critical care capability and single rooms for infection control, putting pressure on the cost per square foot to operate. Sustainable funding strategies for safety net hospitals will be needed.

Mike Gentry. Executive Vice President and COO of Sentara Healthcare (Norfolk, Va.): During the next 10 years, more rural hospitals will become critical assessment facilities. The legislation will be passed to facilitate this transition. Relationships with larger sponsoring health systems will support easy transitions to higher acuity services as required. In urban areas, fewer hospitals with greater acuity and market share will often match the 50 percent plus market share of health plans. The ambulatory transition will have moved beyond only surgical procedures into outpatient but expanded historical medical inpatient status in ED/observation hubs. 

The consumer/patient experience will be vastly improved. Investments in mobile digital applications will provide greatly enhanced communication, transparency of clinical status, timelines, the likelihood of expected outcomes and cost. Patients will proactively select from a menu of treatment options provided by predictive AI. The largest 10 health systems will represent 25 percent of the total U.S. acute care market share, largely due to consumer-centric strategic investments that have outpaced their competitors. Health systems will have vastly larger pharma operations/footprints. 

Ketul J. Patel. CEO of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (Seattle) and Division President, Pacific Northwest of CommonSpirit Health (Chicago): This is a transformative time in the healthcare industry, as hospitals and healthcare systems are evolving and innovating to meet the growing and changing needs of the communities we serve. The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of healthcare. We have seen the proliferation of new technologies — telemedicine, artificial intelligence, robotics, and precision medicine — becoming an integral part of everyday clinical care. Healthcare consumers have become empowered through technology, with greater control and access to care than ever before.  

Against this backdrop, in the next decade we’ll see healthcare consumerism influencing how health systems transform their hospitals. We will continue incorporating new technologies to improve healthcare delivery, offering more convenient ways to access high-quality care, and lowering the overall cost of care. 

SMART hospitals, including at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, are utilizing AI to harness real-time data and analysis to revolutionize patient and provider experiences and improve the quality of care. VMFH was the first health system in the Pacific Northwest to introduce a virtual hospital nearly a decade ago, which provides virtual services in the hospital across the continuum of care to improve quality and safety through remote patient monitoring and care delivery. 

As hospitals become more high-tech, more nimble, and more efficient over the next 10 years, there will be less emphasis on brick-and-mortar buildings as we continue to move care away from the hospital toward more convenient settings for the patient. We recently launched VMFH Home Recovery Care, which brings all the essential elements of hospital-level care into the comfort and convenience of patients’ homes, offering a safe and effective alternative to the traditional inpatient stay. 

Health systems and hospitals must simplify the care experience while reducing the overall cost of care. VMFH is building Washington state’s first hybrid emergency room/urgent care center, which eliminates the guesswork for patients unsure of where to go for care. By offering emergent and urgent care in a single location, patients get the appropriate level of care, at the right price, in one convenient location. 

As healthcare delivery becomes more sophisticated in this digital age, we must not lose sight of why we do this work: our patients. There is no device or innovation that can truly replace the care and human intelligence provided by our nurses, APPs and physicians. So, while hospitals and health systems might look and feel different in 2033, our mission will remain the same: to provide exceptional, compassionate care to all — especially the most vulnerable.

David Sylvan. President of University Hospitals Ventures (Cleveland): American healthcare is facing an imperative. It’s clear that incremental improvements alone won’t manifest the structural outcomes that are largely overdue. The good news is that the healthcare industry itself has already initiated the disruption and self-disintermediation. I would hope that in the next 10 years, our offerings in healthcare truly reflect our efforts to adopt consumerism and patient choice, alleviate equity barriers and harness efficiencies while reducing time waste. 

We know that some of this will come about through technology design, build and adoption, especially in the areas of generative artificial intelligence. But we also know that some of this will require a process overhaul, with learnings gleaned from other industries that have already solved adjacent challenges. What won’t change in 10 years will be the empathy and quality of care that the nation’s clinicians provide to patients and their caregivers daily.

Joseph Webb. CEO of Nashville (Tenn.) General Hospital: The United States healthcare industry operates within a culture that embraces capitalism as an economic system. The practice of capitalism facilitates a framework that is supported by the theory of consumerism. This theory posits that the more goods and services are purchased and consumed, the stronger an economy will be. With that in mind, healthcare is clearly a driver in the U.S. economy, and therefore, major capital and technology are continuously infused into healthcare systems. Healthcare is currently approaching 20 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and will continue to escalate over the next 10 years.

Also, in 10 years, there will be major shifts in ownership structures, e.g., mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations. Many healthcare organizations/hospitals will be unable to sustain operations due to shrinking profit margins. This will lead to a higher likelihood of increasing closures among rural hospitals due to a lack of adequate reimbursement and rising costs associated with salaries for nurses, respiratory therapists, etc., as well as purchasing pharmaceuticals.

Aging baby boomers with chronic medical conditions will continue to dominate healthcare demand as a cohort group. To mitigate the rising costs of care, healthcare systems and providers will begin to rely even more heavily on artificial intelligence and smart devices. Population health initiatives will become more prevalent as the cost to support fragmented care becomes cost-prohibitive and payers such as CMS will continue to lead the way toward value-based care.  

Because of structural and social conditions that tend to drive social determinants of health, which are fundamental causes of health disparities, achieving health equity will continue to be a major challenge in the U.S.  Health equity is an elusive goal that can only be achieved when there is a more equitable distribution of SDOH.

Gary Baker. CEO, Hospital Division of HonorHealth (Scottsdale, Ariz.): In 10 years, I would expect hospitals in health systems to become more specialized for higher acuity service lines. Providing similar acute services at multiple locations will become difficult to maintain. Recruiting and retaining specialty clinical talent and adopting new technologies will require some redistribution of services to improve clinical quality and efficiency. Your local hospital may not provide a service and will be a navigator to the specialty facilities. Many services will be provided in ambulatory settings as technology and reimbursement allow/require. Investment in ambulatory services will continue for the next 10 years.

Michael Connelly. CEO Emeritus of Bon Secours Mercy Health (Cincinnati): Our society will be forced to embrace economic limits on healthcare services. The exploding elderly population, in combination with a shrinking workforce to fund Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security, will force our health system to ration care in new ways. These realities will increase the role of primary care as the needed coordinator of health services for patients. Diminishing fragmented healthcare and redundant care will become an increasing focus for health policy.

David Rahija. President of Skokie Hospital, NorthShore University HealthSystem (Evanston, Ill.): Health systems will evolve from being just a collection of hospitals, providers, and services to providing and coordinating care across a longitudinal care continuum. Health systems that are indispensable health partners to patients and communities by providing excellent outcomes through seamless, coordinated, and personalized care across a disease episode and a life span will thrive. Providers that only provide transactional care without a holistic, longitudinal relationship will either close or be consolidated. Care tailored to the personalized needs of patients and communities using team care models, technology, genomics, and analytics will be key to executing a personalized, seamless, and coordinated model of care.

Alexa Kimball, MD. President and CEO of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston): Ten years from now, hospitals will largely look the same — at least from the outside. Brick-and-mortar buildings aren’t going away anytime soon. What will differ is how care is delivered beyond the traditional four walls. Expect to see a more patient-centered and responsive system organized around what individuals need — when and where they need it. 

Telehealth and remote patient monitoring will enable greater accessibility for patients in underserved areas and those who cannot get to a doctor’s office. Technology will not only enable doctors to deliver more personalized treatment plans but will also dramatically reshape physician workflows and processes. These digital tools will streamline administrative tasks, integrate voice commands, and provide more conducive work environments. I also envision greater access to data for both providers and patients. New self-service solutions for care management, scheduling, pricing, shopping for services, etc., will deliver a more proactive patient experience and make it easier to navigate their healthcare journey. 

Ronda Lehman, PharmD. President of Mercy Health – Lima (Ohio): 

This is a highly challenging question to address as we continue to reevaluate how healthcare is being delivered following several difficult years and knowing that financial challenges still loom. That said, when I am asked what it will look like, I am keenly aware of the fact that it only will look that way if we can envision a better way to improve the health of our communities. So 10 years from now, we need to have easier and more patient-driven access to care. 

We will need to stop doing ‘to people’ and start caring ‘with people.’ Artificial intelligence and proliferous information that is readily available to consumers will continue to pave the way to patients being more empowered and educated about their options. So what will differentiate healthcare of the future? Enabling patients to make informed decisions. 

Undoubtedly, technology will continue to advance, and along with it, the associated costs of research and development, but healthcare can only truly change if providers fundamentally shift their approach to how we care for patients. It is imperative that we need to transform from being the gatekeepers of valuable resources and services to being partners with patients on their journey. If that is what needs to be different, then what needs to be the same? We need the same highly motivated, highly skilled and perhaps most importantly, highly compassionate caregivers selflessly caring for one another and their communities.  

Mike Young. President and CEO of Temple University Health System (Philadelphia): Cell therapy, gene therapy, and immunotherapy will continue to rapidly improve and evolve, replacing many traditional procedures with precise therapies to restore normal human function — either through cell transfer, altering of genetic information, or harnessing the body’s natural immune system to attack a particular disease like cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, or diabetes. As a result, hospitals will decrease in footprint, while the labs dedicated to defining precision medicine will multiply in size to support individual- and disease-specific infusion, drug, and manipulative therapies. 

Hospitals will continue to shepherd the patient journey through these therapies and also will continue to handle the most complex cases requiring high-tech medical and surgical procedures. Medical education will likely evolve in parallel, focusing more on genetic causation and treatment of disease, as well as proficiency with increasingly sophisticated AI diagnostic technologies to provide adaptive care on a patient-by-patient basis.

Tom Siemers. Chief Executive Officer of Wilbarger General Hospital (Vernon, Texas): My predictions include the national healthcare landscape will be dominated by a dozen or so large systems. ‘Consolidation’ will be the word that describes the healthcare industry over the next 10 years.  Regional systems will merge into large, national systems. Independent and rural hospitals will become increasingly rare. They simply won’t be able to make the capital investments necessary to replace outdated facilities and equipment while vying with other organizations for scarce, licensed personnel.

Jim Heilsberg. CFO of Tri-State Memorial Hospital & Medical Campus (Clarkston, Wash.): Tri-State Hospital continues to expand services for outpatient services while maintaining traditionally needed inpatient services. In 10 years, there will be expanded outpatient services that include leveraged technology that will allow the patient to be cared for in a yet-to-be-seen care model, including traditional hospital settings and increasing home care setting solutions. 

Jennifer Olson. COO of Children’s Minnesota (St. Paul, Minn.): I believe we will see more and better access to healthcare over the next 10 years. Advances in diagnostics, monitoring, and artificial intelligence will allow patients to access services at more convenient times and locations, including much more frequently at home, thereby extending health systems’ reach well beyond their walls.  

What I don’t think will ever change is the heart our healthcare professionals bring with them to work every day. I see it here at Children’s Minnesota and across our industry: the unwavering commitment our caregivers have to help people live healthier lives.   

If I had one wish for the future, it would be that we become better equipped to address the social determinants of health: all of the factors outside the walls of our hospitals and clinics that affect our patients’ well-being. Part of that means relaxing regulations to allow better communication and sharing of information among healthcare providers and public and private entities, so we can take a more holistic approach to improve health and decrease disparities. It also will require a fundamental shift in how health and healthcare are paid for.   

Stonish Pierce. COO of Holy Cross Health, Trinity Health Florida: Over the next decade, many health systems will pivot from being ‘hospital’ systems to true ‘health’ systems. Based largely on responding to The Joint Commission’s New Requirements to Reduce Health Care Disparities, many health systems will place greater emphasis on reducing health disparities, enhanced attention to providing culturally competent care, addressing social determinants of health (including, but not limited to food, housing and transportation) and health equity. I’m proud to work for Trinity Health, a system that has already directed attention toward addressing health disparities, cultural competency and health equity. 

Many systems will pivot from offering the full continuum of services at each hospital and instead focus on the core services for their respective communities, which enables long-term financial sustainability. At the same time, we will witness the proliferation of partnerships as adept health systems realize that they cannot fulfill every community’s needs alone. Depending upon the specialty and region of the country, we may see some transitioning away from the RVU physician compensation model to base salaries and value-based compensation to ensure health systems can serve their communities in the long term. 

Driven largely by continued workforce supply shortages, we will also see innovation achieve its full potential. This will include, but not be limited to, virtual care models, robots to address functions currently performed by humans, and increased adoption of artificial intelligence and remote monitoring. Healthcare overall will achieve parity in technological adoption and innovation that we take for granted and have grown accustomed to in industries such as banking and the consumer service industries. 

For what will remain the same, we can anticipate that government reimbursement will still not cover the cost of providing care, although systems will transition to offering care models and services that enable the best long-term financial sustainability. We will continue to see payers and retail pharmacies continue to evolve as consumer-friendly providers. We will continue to see systems make investments in ambulatory care and the most critically ill patients will remain in our hospitals. 

Jamie Davis. Executive Director, Revenue Cycle Management of Banner Health (Phoenix): I think that we will see a continued shift in places of service to lower-cost delivery sources and unfavorable payer mix movement to Medicare Advantage and health exchange plans, degrading the value of gross revenue. The increased focus on cost containment, value-based care, inflation, and pricing transparency will hopefully push payers and providers to move to a more symbiotic relationship versus the adversarial one today. Additionally, we may see disruption in the technology space as the venture capital and private equity purchase boom that happened from 2019 to 2021 will mature and those entities come up for sale. If we want to continue to provide the best quality health outcomes to our patients and maintain profitability, we cannot look the same in 10 years as we do today.

James Lynn. System Vice President, Facilities and Support Services of Marshfield Clinic Health System (Wis.): There will be some aspects that will be different. For instance, there will be more players in the market and they will begin capturing a higher percentage of primary care patients.  Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Amazon, Google and others will begin to make inroads into primary care by utilizing VR and AI platforms. More and more procedures will be the same day. Fewer hospital stays will be needed for recovery as procedures become less invasive and faster. There will be increasing pressure on the federal government to make healthcare a right for all legal residents and it will be decoupled from employment status. On the other hand, what will stay the same is even though hospital stays will become shorter for some, we will also be experiencing an ever-aging population, so the same number of inpatient beds will likely be needed. 

‘Hospital purgatory’: Confidence in healthcare plunges as criticism grows louder and larger

Payers, pharmacy benefit managers and drug manufacturers are no strangers to heavy criticism from the public and providers alike. Now another sector of the healthcare system has found itself increasingly caught in the crosshairs of constituents looking to point a finger for the rising cost of care: hospitals.

As sharp words against the industry bubble up more often and encompass a wider variety of issues, it marks an important turn in the ethos of American healthcare. Most policymakers have historically wanted hospitals on their side, and health systems are often the largest employer within their communities and in many states.

“In my career, I’ve never seen things more aligned to the detriment of hospitals than it is now,” Paul Keckley, PhD, said. Dr. Keckley is a widely known industry analyst and editor of The Keckley Report, a weekly newsletter discussing healthcare policy and current trends. 

Confidence in the medical system as a whole fell from 51 percent in 2020 to a record low of 38 percent in 2022. Though the healthcare system is among all major U.S. institutions facing record-low public confidence, are hospitals ready for an era of widespread distrust? 

We’re going into hospital purgatory. It’s a period in which old rules may not work in the future,” Dr. Keckley said. “The only thing we know for sure is that it’s not going to get easier.”

State-versus-hospital fights have popped up throughout the U.S. over the past year. Most recently, in Colorado, a back and forth unfolded between Gov. Jared Polis and the state’s hospital association over who is ultimately responsible for high care costs. In a speech Jan. 17, the Democratic governor accused Colorado’s hospitals of overcharging patients and sitting on significant cash reserves.

“It’s time that we hold them accountable,” he said.

The Colorado Hospital Association says the data supporting those claims does not reflect the several ongoing industry challenges, among them labor shortages, regulatory burdens and inflationary pressures.

“Unfortunately, we continue to hear rhetoric against the hospitals and health systems that have worked diligently on healthcare quality, access and affordability,” CHA said in a statement to Becker’s. “Colorado’s hospitals and health systems have been working with the administration on many of these programs, including reinsurance, hospital discounted care, price transparency, out-of-network patient protections, and more.”

Some 1,500 miles eastward, another incident of hospital-community conflict grew. In January, Pennsylvania lawmakers promoted a nonpartisan report that accuses UPMC of building a monopoly in the state through consolidation over the last decade — the Pittsburgh-based system refuted the claims, saying they were based on “flawed data.”

To the south, North Carolina officials accused the state’s seven largest health systems in June of using pandemic aid to enrich themselves. Hospitals said the accusations were based on “cherry-picked data” spun in a way that does not reflect their ongoing challenges.

As state- and market-level fights against hospitals intensify and grab national attention, hospitals and health systems may find themselves less familiar in steadying public perception than their payer and pharmaceutical counterparts, who are no strangers to vocal opponents.  

“With public opinion shifting a bit amid COVID, and with some anecdotal evidence that hospitals are doing some bad things, state policymakers feel that they are enjoying the political will to make these gestures,” Ge Bai, PhD, said. “It’s also a key issue for voters. Even if they don’t do anything in reality, the gesture will probably get political capital.”

Dr. Bai is a professor of accounting and health policy at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University. She believes a key underlying factor driving hospital critiques as of late is the reduced public confidence in medicine by way of the pandemic. 

“The hospital industry has moved away from its traditional charitable mission and toward a business orientation that is undeniable,” she said. “With the [pandemic] dust settling, I think a lot of people realize the clinicians are the heroes, but hospitals are maybe not as altruistic as they once thought.”

In 2021, over 70 percent of Americans said they trusted physicians and nurses, but only 22 percent said the same about hospital executives, according to a study from the University of Chicago and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. 

“It’s a tough job and a complicated business to run, and everybody in the community has an opinion about it based on anecdotal evidence,” Dr. Keckley said. “I think much of the blame too for hospitals taking a lot of hits has been boards that are not prepared to govern.”

For both Drs. Keckley and Bai, there are other major issues they each point to as contributing factors to the growing wariness around hospital operations: 

  • A lack of compliance with CMS price transparency rules. Some of the most recent studies estimate hospital compliance rates could range from 16 percent to 55 percent, while hospitals say the issue has been mischaracterized. CMS has penalized very few hospitals for noncompliance since the rule took effect in 2021.
  • The decades-long trend of consolidation hitting a tipping point. With consolidation, hospitals have long argued the trend would lead to more efficiency, care access, quality of care and lower costs. One of the most comprehensive consolidation studies to date was released Jan. 24 in JAMA and concluded that merged health systems have led to “marginally better care at significantly higher costs.”

    “Hospitals are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do — make money to survive and expand,” Dr. Bai said. “Instead of blaming individual players, we have to raise the bar and think about who created the system in the first place that makes competition so difficult — the government.”
  • State retirement benefits plans struggling financially. Though not a new trend, unfunded healthcare benefits promised to retired public employees and their dependents continues to grow around the country, incentivizing state lawmakers to look in new directions to save on costs. Unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities across all states surpassed $1 trillion in 2019, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council.
  • Competition from other healthcare sectors. Competition for patients has arrived from other healthcare sectors, especially from payers. In 2023, UnitedHealth Group’s Optum owns or is affiliated with the most physicians in the country at 60,000, though it’s likely higher after several large acquisitions last year.

“The center of gravity in healthcare has shifted from hospitals that muscled their way into scaling,” Dr. Keckley said. “The reality is that providing hospital services in non-hospital settings that are safe, effective and less costly is where the market, and insurers, are going.”

Despite the uptick in states and Americans that have gone into fault-finding mode against hospitals and those running them, operating a financially successful hospital or health system in 2023 is a monumental task, perhaps even close to impossible for many. Last year, approximately half of U.S. hospitals finished the year with a negative margin, making it “the worst financial year” for the industry since the start of the pandemic, according to Kaufman Hall’s latest “National Flash Hospital Report.”

“Hospitals aren’t going into this with a huge amount of goodwill at their backs, and I think that’s what they need to be prepared for,” Dr. Keckley said. “You can’t just go in and tell the story of ‘look at what we do for the community’ or ‘look at all the people we employ’ — that is not going to work anymore.”

Is Magnet status beginning to lose its attraction?

https://mailchi.mp/8f3f698b8612/the-weekly-gist-january-27-2023?e=d1e747d2d8

As hospitals and health system leaders continue to grapple with persistently high nursing vacancy rates and severe staffing challenges, and face growing pressure to cut costs, we’re beginning to hear serious—if paradoxical—consideration being given to sharpening the axe, with an eye on a long-standing sacred cow: “Magnet” status.

For years, leading systems have invested significant time and resources to earn Magnet status, a designation of nursing quality granted by the American Nursing Association through its American Nurses’ Credentialing Center. Applying for—and then renewing—the designation can cost millions of dollars and involve significant process changes and staff time. In return, participants can market themselves as “Magnet hospitals”, presumably garnering additional patient business and giving them a leg up in recruiting high-quality nurses. At a time of severe nursing shortage, you might expect interest in earning or maintaining Magnet status to be spiking.
 
But that’s not what we’re hearing. “It’s just too expensive,” shared one system CEO recently. “We haven’t really seen it move the needle on volume, and our Magnet-designated facilities are just as stretched as the non-Magnet ones, with equally low morale.” Plus, at a time when the ability to pursue flexible staffing models is at a premium, keeping up with Magnet standards is increasingly handcuffing some hospitals looking to evaluate alternative staffing solutions.

“We can achieve all of the benefits of Magnet without having to jump through their hoops on process and data collection,” a system chief nursing officer told us. “We’re working on our own, internally-branded alternative to Magnet—something our own staff comes up with, rather than something artificially imposed from an outside organization.” 

Ironically, this may be another area—like the battle against contract labor—in which systems now find themselves aligned with nursing unions, which have long opposed the Magnet program as just a marketing gimmick. There’s no question that programs like Magnet have helped increase the visibility of nursing as a driver of quality care. But given the current economic environment, it’ll be interesting to see how much hospitals are willing to continue to invest to maintain the designation.

Another year of larger health system mergers

https://mailchi.mp/8f3f698b8612/the-weekly-gist-january-27-2023?e=d1e747d2d8

After the number of health system mergers and acquisitions (M&A) reached a recent low in 2021, last year saw a slight rebound in deal volume, while continuing the trend toward mergers between larger systems.

Using data from Kaufman Hall’s 2022 M&A report, the graphic below shows that the number of announced health system M&A transactions dropped by over 50 percent from 2017 to 2022, while the average revenue of the smaller system in each deal increased by over 125 percent. The steadily rising average size of the smaller party is a product of both larger transactions occurring more frequently and smaller deals happening less often. 

Since 2019, when the average seller posted $272M in annual revenue, the number of billion-dollar revenue systems merging together has more than doubled, while pickups of hospitals with less than $100M in annual revenue declined by over 65 percent.

Between the industry’s march toward consolidation, which has left only 20 percent of hospitals independent, and the market pressures created by vertically-integrated payers, we expect “mega-mergers” to be the new normal, especially as health system leaders look to build cross-regional scale while regulators continue to heavily scrutinize in-market combinations.

16 Things CEOs Need to Know in 2023

https://www.advisory.com/-/media/project/advisoryboard/abresearch/brand-campaigns/soi/wf8632394-ab-16-things-ceos-need-to-know.pdf#page=38

Understand the health care industry’s most urgent challenges—and greatest opportunities.

The health care industry is facing an increasingly tough business climate dominated by increasing costs and prices, tightening margins and capital, staffing upheaval, and state-level policymaking. These urgent, disruptive market forces mean that leaders must navigate an unusually high number of short-term crises.

But these near-term challenges also offer significant opportunities. The strategic choices health care leaders make now will have an outsized impact—positive or negative—on their organization’s long-term goals, as well as the equitability, sustainability, and affordability of the industry as a whole.

This briefing examines the biggest market forces to watch, the key strategic decisions that health care organizations must make to influence how the industry operates, and the emerging disruptions that will challenge the traditional structures of the entire industry.

Preview the insights below and download the full executive briefing (using the link above) now to learn the top 16 insights about the state of the health care industry today.

Preview the insights

Part 1 | Today’s market environment includes an overwhelming deluge of crises—and they all command strategic attention

Insight #1

The converging financial pressures of elevated input costs, a volatile macroeconomic climate, and the delayed impact of inflation on health care prices are exposing the entire industry to even greater scrutiny over affordability. Keep reading on pg. 6

Insight #2

The clinical workforce shortage is not temporary. It’s been building to a structural breaking point for years. Keep reading on pg. 8

Insight #3

Demand for health care services is growing more varied and complex—and pressuring the limited capacity of the health care industry when its bandwidth is most depleted. Keep reading on pg. 10

Insight #4

Insurance coverage shifted dramatically to publicly funded managed care. But Medicaid enrollment is poised to disperse unevenly after the public health emergency expires, while Medicare Advantage will grow (and consolidate). Keep reading on pg. 12

Part II | Competition for strategic assets continues at a rapid pace—influencing how and where patient care is delivered.

Insight #5

The current crisis conditions of hospital systems mask deeper vulnerabilities: rapidly eroding power to control procedural volumes and uncertainty around strategic acquisition and consolidation. Keep reading on pg. 15

Insight #6

Health care giants—especially national insurers, retailers, and big tech entrants—are building vertical ecosystems (and driving an asset-buying frenzy in the process). Keep reading on pg. 17

Insight #7

As employment options expand, physicians will determine which owners and partners benefit from their talent, clinical influence, and strategic capabilities—but only if these organizations can create an integrated physician enterpriseKeep reading on pg. 19

Insight #8

Broader, sustainable shifts to home-based care will require most care delivery organizations to focus on scaling select services. Keep reading on pg. 21

Insight #9

A flood of investment has expanded telehealth technology and changed what interactions with patients are possible. This has opened up new capabilities for coordinating care management or competing for consumer attention. Keep reading on pg. 23

Insight #10

Health care organizations are harnessing data and incentives to curate consumers choices—at both the service-specific and ecosystem-wide levels. Keep reading on pg. 25

Part III | Emerging structural disruptions require leaders to reckon with impacts to future business sustainability. 

Insight #11

For value-based care to succeed outside of public programs, commercial plans and providers must coalesce around a sustainable risk-based payment approach that meets employers’ experience and cost needs. Keep reading on pg. 28

Insight #12

Industry pioneers are taking steps to integrate health equity into quality metrics. This could transform the health care business model, or it could relegate equity initiatives to just another target on a dashboard. Keep reading on pg. 30

Insight #13

Unprecedented behavioral health needs are hitting an already fragmented, marginalized care infrastructure. Leaders across all sectors will need to make difficult compromises to treat and pay for behavioral health like we do other complex, chronic conditions. Keep reading on pg. 32

Insight #14

As the population ages, the fragile patchwork of government payers, unpaid caregivers, and strained nursing homes is ill-equipped to provide sustainable, equitable senior care. This is putting pressure on Medicare Advantage plans to ultimately deliver results. Keep reading on pg. 34

Insight #15

The enormous pipeline of specialized high-cost therapies in development will see limited clinical use unless the entire industry prepares for paradigm shifts in evidence evaluation, utilization management, and financing. Keep reading on pg. 36

Insight #16

Self-funded employers, who are now liable for paying “reasonable” amounts, may contest the standard business practices of brokers and plans to avoid complex legal battles with poor optics. Keep reading on pg. 38

Four Insights from Healthcare Reimagined: BDO’s J.P. Morgan Conference Event

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/four-insights-from-healthcare-reimagined-bdos-jp-morgan-steven-shill/

This January, BDO hosted healthcare and life sciences leaders on the sidelines of JP Morgan’s Healthcare Conference to glean insights from those at the forefront of these rapidly evolving industries. 

In a series of intimate breakout discussions, these leaders discussed the challenges they’re seeing and what they anticipate the near future will hold. Here are four of their biggest takeaways that industry stakeholders need to know:  

·        Healthcare labor needs a makeover

One of the biggest issues we’re seeing in healthcare today is the overburdening of clinicians and other healthcare staff. This year, healthcare leaders need to prioritize enabling clinicians to practice at the top of their licenses. That means reducing their administrative burden so they can spend more time doing what they do best: working with patients and dispensing care. 

·        Healthcare valuations are moderating

In the past year, healthcare company valuations have been very high. We’re now seeing valuations moderate, which could mean a major shift in the deal landscape, with deal opportunities opening up as the price is right. 

·        Health equity is about choice

The reality is that each individual patient has unique needs that require tailored solutions. One important tool for improving health equity is technology that enables patients to choose what is right for them and their situation. That’s why capabilities like self-scheduling are so important, despite the fact that they are currently a missed opportunity for many providers

·        Life sciences leaders are looking at drug timelines differently

COVID-19 showed how quickly a drug can be safely developed when the right resources are in place. Moving forward, life sciences leaders are likely to pressure test drug timelines, which could lead to a shift in how the industry looks at drug development as a whole. 

·        While it’s impossible to know exactly what the future holds, we’re thankful that we were able to hear from industry leaders with on-the-ground knowledge of what’s happening now and what’s likely ahead. In the months and years ahead, we’ll continue to look to these leaders for their insights. 

The Impact of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Expiration on All Types of Health Coverage

https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2022/12/the-impact-of-the-covid-19-public-health-emergency-expiration-on-all-types-of-health-coverage.html

The end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency will bring the largest health coverage changes since implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Issue

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s continuous coverage requirement prevents state Medicaid agencies from disenrolling people during the COVID-19 public health emergency. However, when the declaration of the emergency expires—currently scheduled for April 2023—states will resume normal eligibility determinations. This could result in millions losing access to affordable health coverage through Medicaid.

Key Findings

  • 18 million people could lose Medicaid coverage when the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) ends, according to a new analysis.
  • While many who are currently enrolled in Medicaid will transition to other coverage options, nearly 4 million people (3.8M) will become completely uninsured.
  • 19 states will see their uninsurance rates spike by more than 20 percent.
  • 3.2 million children will transition from Medicaid to separate Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) health plans. 

Conclusion

State Medicaid officials and policymakers must continue to ensure that individuals currently enrolled in Medicaid are aware of the approaching end of the public health emergency, and that they have a plan to maintain or find new health coverage through their employer, the federal healthcare Marketplace, or Medicaid

100 of the largest hospitals and health systems in America | 2023

Health systems across the U.S. are growing as more independent hospitals and small chains move to join larger organizations amid financially challenging times.

Becker’s compiled a list of 40 of the largest health systems by number of hospitals and 60 of the largest hospitals by number of beds, based on organizational data as of January 2023.

Largest Health Systems

1. HCA Healthcare (Nashville, Tenn.): 182 hospitals 

2. Veterans Health Administration: 171 hospitals 

3. CommonSpirit Health (Chicago): 140 hospitals 

4. Ascension (St. Louis): 139 hospitals 

5. Trinity Health (Livonia, Mich.): 88 hospitals 

6. LifePoint Health (Brentwood, Tenn.): 84 hospitals

7. Community Health Systems (Franklin, Tenn.): 79 hospitals

8. Advocate Health (Charlotte, N.C.): 67 hospitals 

9. Tenet Healthcare (Dallas): 61 hospitals 

10. Christus Health (Irving, Texas): 60 hospitals

11. Providence (Renton, Wash.): 52 hospitals 

12. Baylor Scott & White Health (Dallas): 51 hospitals 

13. Bon Secours Mercy Health (Cincinnati): 48 hospitals

14. Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.): 47 hospitals 

15. AdventHealth (Altamonte Springs, Fla.): 46 hospitals 

16. Indian Health Service (Rockville, Md.): 46 [24 IHS-operated and 22 tribally operated] hospitals

17. Prime Healthcare (Ontario, Calif.): 45 hospitals 

18. UPMC (Pittsburgh): 40 hospitals 

19. Mercy (St. Louis): 40 hospitals  

20. Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, Calif.): 39 hospitals  

21. UnityPoint Health (West Des Moines, Iowa): 39 hospitals 

22. Avera Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.): 37 hospitals  

23. Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City): 33 hospitals

24. Ardent Health Services (Nashville, Tenn.): 30 hospitals  

25. Banner Health (Phoenix): 30 hospitals  

26. Community Hospital Corp. (Plano, Texas): 29 hospitals

27. Texas Health Resources (Arlington): 29 hospitals 

28.  Universal Health Services (King of Prussia, Pa.): 28 hospitals 

29. Great Plains Health Alliance (Wichita, Kan.): 26 hospitals

30. Adventist Health (Roseville, Calif.): 23 hospitals

31. Sutter Health (Sacramento, Calif.): 23 hospitals 

32. MercyOne (Des Moines, Iowa): 23 hospitals 

33. SSM Health (St. Louis): 23 hospitals  

34. Baptist (Memphis, Tenn.): 22 hospitals 

35. Cleveland Clinic: 22 hospitals

36. Ballad Health (Johnson City, Tenn.): 21 hospitals 

37. Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.): 21 hospitals 

38. Quorum Health Corp. (Brentwood, Tenn.): 21 hospitals  

39. University Hospitals (Cleveland): 21 hospitals 

40. Mayo Clinic Health System (Rochester, Minn.): 16 hospitals

Largest Hospitals

1. Yale New Haven (Conn.) Hospital: 1,541 beds 

2. Jackson Memorial Hospital (Miami): 1,488 beds

3. AdventHealth Orlando (Fla.): 1,400 beds

4. Cleveland Clinic: 1,300 beds 

5. Barnes-Jewish Hospital (St. Louis): 1,278 beds 

6. Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys Campus (Rochester, Minn.): 1,265 beds 

7. UAB Hospital (Birmingham, Ala.): 1,207 beds  

8. The Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore): 1,162 beds

9. Mount Sinai Hospital (New York City): 1,139 beds 

10. Northeast Florida State Hospital (MacClenny): 1,138 beds

11. Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak (Mich.): 1,131 beds 

12. Saint Francis Hospital (Tulsa, Okla.): 1,112 beds 

13. Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center (Charlotte, N.C.): 1,059 beds

14. OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital (Columbus): 1,059 beds 

15. Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (Houston): 1,058 beds 

16. Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital: 1,040 beds 

17. Christiana Hospital (Newark, Del.): 1,039 beds 

18. UH Cleveland Medical Center: 1,032 beds

19. UF Health Shands Hospital (Gainesville, Fla.): 1,030 beds

20. Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston): 1,019 beds 

21. Vanderbilt University Hospital (Nashville, Tenn.): 1,000 beds 

22. ECU Health Medical Center (Greenville, N.C.): 974 beds 

23. Duke University Hospital (Durham, N.C.): 957 beds 

24. UNC Medical Center (Chapel Hill, N.C.): 950 beds

25. Florida State Hospital (Chattahoochee): 949 beds 

26. Baptist Hospital of Miami (Fla.): 948 beds

27. Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center of Aurora Health Care (Milwaukee): 938 beds

28. Methodist Hospital (San Antonio): 933 beds 

29. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Philadelphia): 926 beds 

30. Inova Fairfax Hospital (Falls Church, Va.): 923 beds 

31. Miami Valley Hospital (Dayton, Ohio): 922 beds 

32. Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center (Winston-Salem, N.C.): 921 beds 

33. Baylor University Medical Center (Dallas): 914 beds

34. MedStar Washington Hospital Center: 912 beds 

35. The University of Kansas Hospital (Kansas City): 910 beds

36. Houston Methodist Hospital: 907 beds

37. Sarasota Memorial Hospital (Fla.): 901 beds

38. Ohio State University Hospital (Columbus): 900 beds 

39. Medical City Dallas: 899 beds 

40. Orlando (Fla.) Health Orlando Regional Medical Center: 898 beds

41. St. Joseph’s Hospital (Tampa, Fla.): 897 beds

42. Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago): 894 beds 

43. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles): 886 beds 

44. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (Winston-Salem, N.C.): 885 beds 

45. Huntsville (Ala.) Hospital: 881 beds 

46. Henry Ford Hospital (Detroit, Mich.): 877 beds

47. Hartford (Conn.) Hospital: 867 beds 

48. Lakeland (Fla.) Regional Health Medical Center: 864 beds 

49. Memorial Regional Hospital (Hollywood, Fla.): 863 beds

50. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center (New York City): 862 beds 

51. Mercy Hospital St. Louis: 859 beds 

52. Texas Heart Institute at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center (Houston): 850 beds 

53. NYU Langone Hospitals (New York City): 844 beds 

54. Baptist Health-Little Rock (Ark.): 843 beds 

55. Parkland Health and Hospital System (Dallas): 836 beds 

56. Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center (Baton Rouge, La.): 800 beds

57. Mayo Clinic Hospital-Methodist Campus (Rochester, Minn.): 794 beds 

58. ProMedica Toledo (Ohio) Hospital: 794 beds 

59. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston): 793 beds

60. North Shore University Hospital (Manhasset, N.Y.): 738 beds 

U.S. healthcare: A conglomerate of monopolies

The Taylor Swift ticketing debacle of 2022 left thousands of frustrated ‘Swifties’ without a chance to see their favorite artist in concert. And it also highlighted the trouble that arises when companies like Ticketmaster gain monopolistic control.

In any industry, market consolidation limits competition, choice and access to goods and services, all of which drive up prices.

But there’s another—often overlooked—consequence.

Market leaders that grow too powerful become complacent. And, when that happens, innovation dies. Healthcare offers a prime example.

And industry of monopolies

De facto monopolies abound in almost every healthcare sector: Hospitals and health systems, drug and device manufacturers, and doctors backed by private equity. The result is that U.S. healthcare has become a conglomerate of monopolies.  

For two decades, this intense concentration of power has inflicted harm on patients, communities and the health of the nation. For most of the 21st century, medical costs have risen faster than overall inflation, America’s life expectancy (and overall health) has stagnated, and the pace of innovation has slowed to a crawl.

 This article, the first in a series about the ominous and omnipresent monopolies of healthcare, focuses on how merged hospitals and powerful health systems have raised the price, lowered the quality and decreased the convenience of American medicine.

Future articles will look at drug companies who wield unfettered pricing power, coalitions of specialist physicians who gain monopolistic leverage, and the payers (businesses, insurers and the government) who tolerate market consolidation. The series will conclude with a look at who stands the best chance of shattering this conglomerate of monopolies and bringing innovation back to healthcare.

How hospitals consolidate power

The hospital industry is now home to a pair of seemingly contradictory trends. On one hand, economic losses in recent years have resulted in record rates of hospital (and hospital service) closures. On the other hand, the overall market size, value and revenue of U.S. hospitals are growing.

This is no incongruity. It’s what happens when hospitals and health systems merge and eliminate competition in communities.  

Today, the 40 largest health systems own 2,073 hospitals, roughly one-third of all emergency and acute-care facilities in the United States. The top 10 health systems own a sixth of all hospitals and combine for $226.7 billion in net patient revenues.

Though the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the DOJ are charged with enforcing antitrust laws in healthcare markets and preventing anticompetitive conduct, legal loopholes and intense lobbying continue to spur hospital consolidation. Rarely are hospital M&A requests denied or even challenged.

The ills of hospital consolidation

The rapid and recent increase in hospital consolidation has left hundreds of communities with only one option for inpatient care.

But the lack of choice is only one of the downsides.

Hospital administrators know that state and federal statutes require insurers and self-funded businesses to provide hospital care within 15 miles of (or 30 minutes from) a member’s home or work. And they understand that insurers must accept their pricing demands if they want to sell policies in these consolidated markets. As a result, studies confirm that hospital prices and profits are higher in uncompetitive geographies.

These elevated prices negatively impact the pocketbooks of patients and force local governments (which must balance their budgets) to redirect funds toward hospitals and away from local police, schools and infrastructure projects.

Perhaps most concerning of all is the lack of quality improvement following hospital consolidation. Contrary to what administrators claim, clinical outcomes for patients are no better in consolidated locations than in competitive ones—despite significantly higher costs.

How hospitals could innovate (and why they don’t)

Hospital care in the United States accounts for more than 30% of total medical expenses (about $1.5 trillion). Even though fewer patients are being admitted each year, these costs continue to rise at a feverish pace.

If our nation wants to improve medical outcomes and make healthcare more affordable, a great place to start would be to innovate care-delivery in our country’s hospitals.

To illuminate what’s possible, below are three practical innovations that would simultaneously improve clinical outcomes and lower costs. And yet, despite the massive benefits for patients, few hospital-system administrators appear willing to embrace these changes.

Innovation 1: Leveraging economies of scale

In most industries, bigger is better because size equals cost savings. This advantage is known as economies of scale.

Ostensibly, when bigger hospitals acquire smaller ones, they gain negotiating power—along with plenty of opportunities to eliminate redundancies. These factors could and should result in lower prices for medical care.

Instead, when hospitals merge, the inefficiencies of both the acquirer and the acquired usually persist. Rather than closing small, ineffective clinical services, the newly expanded hospital system keeps them open. That’s because hospital administrators prefer to raise prices and keep people happy rather than undergo the painstaking process of becoming more efficient.

The result isn’t just higher healthcare costs, but also missed opportunities to improve quality.

Following M&A, health systems continue to schedule orthopedic, cardiac and neurosurgical procedures across multiple low-volume hospitals. They’d be better off creating centers of excellence and doing all total joint replacements, heart surgeries and neurosurgical procedures in a single hospital or placing each of the three specialties in a different one. Doing so would increase the case volumes for surgeons and operative teams in that specialty, augmenting their experience and expertise—leading to better outcomes for patients.

But hospital administrators bristle at the idea, fearing pushback from communities where these services close.   

Innovation 2: Switching to a seven-day hospital

When patients are admitted on a Friday night, rather than a Monday or Tuesday night, they spend on average an extra day in the hospital.

This delay occurs because hospitals cut back services on weekends and, therefore, frequently postpone non-emergent procedures until Monday. For patients, this extra day in the hospital is costly, inconvenient and risky. The longer the patient stays admitted, the greater the odds of experiencing a hospital acquired infection, medical error or complications from underlying disease.

It would be possible for physicians and staff to spread the work over seven days, thus eliminating delays in care. By having the necessary, qualified staff present seven days a week, inpatients could get essential, but non-emergent treatments on weekends without delay. They could also receive sophisticated diagnostic tests and undergo procedures soon after admission, every day of the week. As a result, patients would get better sooner with fewer total inpatient days and far lower costs.  

Hospital administrators don’t make the change because they worry it would upset the doctors and nurses who prefer to work weekdays, not weekends.

Innovation 3: Bringing hospitals into homes

During Covid-19, hospitals quickly ran out of staffed beds. Patients were sent home on intravenous medications with monitoring devices and brief nurse visits when needed.

Clinical outcomes were equivalent to (and often better than) the current inpatient care and costs were markedly less.

Building on this success, hospitals could expand this approach with readily available technologies.

Whereas doctors and nurses today check on hospitalized patients intermittently, a team of clinicians set up in centralized location could monitor hundreds of patients (in their homes) around the clock.

By sending patients home with devices that continuously measure blood pressure, pulse and blood oxygenation—along with digital scales that can calibrate fluctuations in a patient’s weight, indicating either dehydration or excess fluid retention—patients can recuperate from the comforts of home. And when family members have questions or concerns, they can obtain assistance and advice through video.

Despite dozens of advantages, use of the “hospital at home” model is receding now that Covid-19 has waned.

That’s because hospital CEOs and CFOs are paid to fill beds in their brick-and-mortar facilities. And so, unless their facilities are full, they prefer that doctors and nurses treat patients in a hospital bed rather than in people’s own homes.

Opportunities for hospital innovations abound. These three are just a few of many changes that could transform medical care. Instead of taking advantage of them, hospital administrators continue to construct expensive new buildings, add beds and raise prices.