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2016 Healthcare Leadership Surveys

I’ve been reviewing some of the more popular healthcare leadership surveys over the past year, and with HIMSS 2017 just a few weeks away, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the overall progress we’ve made as an industry over this past year. I’ll undoubtedly write a new post once the relevant 2017 surveys are collated and published, but without much further ado, let’s look at a couple of the more popular publications of this kind.

The 27th annual edition of the HIMSS Leadership Survey was completed in March 2016. You can find an abstract and a useful infographic here, and can download the full report with a membership here. When asked to rank areas in which IT is deemed critical for achieving success in healthcare delivery, the top five areas all focused on patient care: clinical integration, primary care provider efficiency, mandated quality metrics improvement, care coordination, and use of evidence based medicine.

Similarly, two out of the top five areas which were priorities for healthcare organizations focused on patient care (improve patient satisfaction, improve patient care / quality of care / outcomes), while the remaining three areas focused on business objectives (sustain financial viability, improve operational efficiencies / lower operating costs, improve physician satisfaction).

Note that the full report contains weighted priorities by organizations who have clinical IT leadership as well as those who don’t. It’s worth reading the entire report to see the differences in scoring.

A summary of the  2016 American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) annual hospital CEO survey can be found here. Note that you can retrieve the complete report here, but you need to be a member of ACHE. Over 300 healthcare CEOs across the country ranked bottom-line focused items (financial challenges, governmental mandates) in their top five focus areas, and rounded out the list with patient care-impacting items (patient safety and quality, personnel shortages, and patient satisfaction).

My thoughts and observations on these leadership surveys:

  • The consensus on the importance of a clinical IT executive (CMIO, CNIO, for example) resonates across many conversations with healthcare leaders over the past years, and a strong clinical IT leadership is often reflective of a forward-leaning organization. Who better to help guide the organization in these care and outcome-focused goals than a clinician or hospitalist?
  • The strong emphasis on patient safety and quality as well as evidence-based medicine is a good indicator of organizations wanting to start doing more with their EHRs — some would point out that these goals were the impetus for buying and implementing the EHR in the first place! Digitization is a good thing, but leveraging these disparate bits and bytes to paint a composite picture and better influence patient care and outcomes is going to be de rigueur 2017 onwards.
  • The strong focus on patient satisfaction and better patient care, better patient outcomes resonates very well across the industry, but yet much remains to be done in this space. I’m glad to see that CEOs also see this as an important item, as it makes their top-5 issues list, but we, as an industry, must continue to push on this agenda. High patient satisfaction creates a real, measurable competitive advantage, but it requires patient engagement and outreach programs to truly be successful. As both a healthcare IT professional and a patient, I still feel like there’s a lot for us to do in the industry to improve experience.
  • A focus on eliminating waste and bending the cost curve remains high on everyone’s agenda. Financial challenges appearing at the top of the CEO issues list is indicative of CEO and CFO priorities being closely aligned. Doing things better, cheaper, safer, faster is a great goal, but will require new models and thinking to truly accomplish these goals. Approaches like activity-based costing and service line management are gaining traction as the need to improve financial performance grows.
  • It’s clear that most of the top goals will require a different breed of data-intensive applications (IoT, big data, machine learning, real-time analytics, cost accounting, interoperability, open systems and secure data exchange, text analysis, to name a few).
  • The HIMSS survey also highlights the focus on happier physicians and providers. I’m going to take the liberty of expanding the group, especially to include IT practitioners and administrators. Employee satisfaction is key to retention, and with the high-stakes environment that we’re in, keeping good people is very important. These skilled folks have a lot of mobility these days, and while the grass may not be greener at another organization, there might just be enough of a difference to draw folks away from yours. Talent drain is a big deal these days, especially in healthcare. The CEO report touches on this topic, too, as personnel shortages are in their top-5.
  • It’s clear that the healthcare IT organization is viewed as a strategic partner in innovation, as the IT organization is not only more central to the successful delivery of healthcare, but also instrumental in accomplishing most of the top leadership priorities.