By Jay Kumar
PSQH reached out to experts throughout healthcare to get their predictions for what will happen in patient safety and healthcare quality in 2024. Here’s what they had to say.
Pete Reilly, practice leader and chief sales officer of Hub International’s North American healthcare practice
“The continuing difficulties of healthcare show little sign of abating: escalating cost pressures, a chronic labor shortage and greater risks to property, reputation and professional status. Healthcare organizations that provide forward-thinking benefits and implement effective risk management are more likely to thrive in the macro healthcare market.
The healthcare industry is facing a shortfall. Many workers are leaving the field because they don’t feel valued and respected.
There’s also the matter of safety in employee recruiting and retention. Healthcare professionals’ risk of injury from workplace violence is five times greater than any other industry, and fears of safety have driven healthcare workers into other professions.”
Robert E. White Jr., President of The Doctors Company and TDC Group
Cost of healthcare becomes a prime discussion topic. Social inflation occurs when an insurer’s average claim amount grows faster than the overall inflation rate. Over the decade ending in 2021, social inflation has led to losses estimated to be between $2.4 billion and $3.5 billion—8% to 11%—of all medical malpractice losses incurred by physician-focused insurers. The rapid uptick began in 2019, and roughly 30% of policyholders nationwide experienced increased malpractice premiums. People are sympathetic to injured patients. Jurors also relate to credible, empathetic medical professionals, but it can be harder to evoke sympathy for a hospital. If jurors perceive a healthcare organization as a faceless, deep-pocketed entity, then an enormous award may be easier for the plaintiff’s attorney to inspire. As these cost trends continue, medical professional liability carriers may have to increase their rates to keep up with the losses. Therefore, although social inflation hits insurers first, it ultimately affects practices’ premiums.
Laura Kline, MBA, CPCU, Senior Vice President of Business Development, The Doctors Company, Part of TDC Group
Evolution of primary and preventive care accelerates. Through 2030, Conning strategic studies show that physicians are projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of less than 1%, while the CAGR for nurse practitioners and physician assistants is forecast at 6.8%, and 4.3%, respectively. This will place APCs among the fasting growing of all professions—doubling over this decade. In a time of present and predicted physician shortages, an approach of thoughtfully structuring care teams to build in roles for APCs will be critical to expanding access to care, containing costs, relieving burdens for beleaguered physicians, and continuing to provide high-quality and attentive care. APCs will continue becoming increasingly accessible care providers for many Americans seeking routine and preventative care. As the pace of change in healthcare continues to accelerate, we support the delivery of care by APCs.
Joerg Schwarz, Sr. Director of Healthcare Interoperability at Infor
AI in healthcare:
- Healthcare executives are cautious to use generative AI for clinical content, and we can expect this apprehension to extend well into 2024, primarily because of the overabundance of unstructured data.
- Healthcare CIOs and CTOs will begin implementing a data analytics platform strategy combining data from different sources (IoT, EMR, ERP) in 2024, with hopes of using this platform to feed the many AI algorithms that promise improved operational and clinical outcomes.
- While healthcare providers recognize the potential of generative AI, 2024 will be the year when organizations come together and work to train algorithms for reliable results, in parallel with good governance models.
Brianna Zink, RN, MSN, Senior Director of Healthcare Product Strategy, Infor
Future of virtual nursing. While 2023 marked the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency in the U.S., the pandemic has spurred growth in the virtual nursing real, which is expected to continue to grow into the next calendar year. Virtual nursing, which I would argue may have its roots in telehealth concepts, is making a rise as an efficient way to ensure patients receive timely, quality care and to offer nurses flexibility in their work and ultimately reduce burnout and attrition. This is proving to lighten the workload for nurses and other caregivers at the bedside while also providing more flexible work options for nurses.
Nursing staffing ratios. Approaching the final stretch of 2023, the Unites States has seen at least 13 healthcare worker strikes and narrowly avoided many more. Each of these strikes have at least one component in common: safe staffing.
2024 will mark 25 years of California’s safe staffing laws, implementing nursing staff ratios in hospitals. As more states adopt nursing staffing ratios, we will see that these measures do not address the core issues of healthcare delivery.
Even if these proposed mandates provide considerations for changes (as Oregon does), they still set the stage for the standard and could prove to be an obstacle for change, keeping these processes stagnant for many years to come. This could hinder future innovations around how nurses provide care, inhibit changes to the now-standard primary nursing model, and does not always guarantee that nurses’ assignment will be fair, safe, or equitable.
Anthony Hare, Senior Director Healthcare Strategy – Finance, Infor
Hospital price transparency. Looking ahead to 2024, the continued focus, enforcement, and compliance with the Hospital Price Transparency Act will be integral to ensuring physical and financial wellbeing for patients. To meet the demands of the bill, the healthcare industry will be forced to adopt transparency in pricing, costs, and business models.
Chris Luoma, Chief Strategy Officer, GHX
Regulations, reimbursement, and the growth of the “Payvider” model. Many hospitals and health systems in the U.S. are struggling to realize health equity goals as they continue down the path toward profitability. Government regulations, value-based reimbursements, and the rise of “payvider” models will impact investments in this area and the ability for the industry to deliver affordable, quality healthcare for all. The healthcare supply chain plays a crucial role in getting healthcare products and services to historically disadvantaged populations—delivering high-quality care to more patients and building a more sustainable and resilient supply chain in the process. Guided buying procurement systems to drive spend compliance with diverse suppliers, automated inventory management to identify and donate soon-to-expire and obsolete supplies and harnessing supply chain capabilities to support access to critical social needs, including affordable housing and transportation—are just a few examples of how the healthcare supply chain can lean in.
The expansion of non-acute care delivery. While innovative approaches such as hospital-at-home are still early in their evolution, supply chain leaders in 2024 must begin developing strategies and implementing technology solutions to service a more disparate care environment. To provide care to a patient in the most convenient and appropriate setting, a healthcare organization needs to efficiently deliver nursing care, equipment and supplies to the “new bedside.” Supply chain teams will need to acquire new skills and adopt innovative solutions to meet the demands of this model.
To effectively support non-acute care delivery, healthcare supply chain teams must utilize resources within their ecosystem. This may involve partnering with distributors who can handle the logistics of supply delivery to patients’ homes or contracting with local service providers to handle nutrition or transportation services. Taking an ecosystem approach will allow the supply chain to support care delivery, more quickly and efficiently within the community.
Kristin Motter, Strategic Sourcing and Value Analysis Consultant, GHX
While clinical integration will benefit from AI in 2024, human experts will remain critical to decision-making. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly popular in healthcare organizations that value connectivity and are implementing data lakes for their clinical, supply chain and cost data. It’s important to note that AI is not meant to replace clinical or supply chain decision-making, but rather to assist decision-makers in identifying utilization trends and potential opportunities.
To better understand the concept, consider the analogy of baggage screening technology in airport security. These tools flag items that may require further examination by TSA agents due to potential risks. However, it is ultimately the expertise and experience of the TSA agent that determines how to interpret and act upon this information. In healthcare, AI can rapidly analyze large volumes of data to uncover valuable insights. However, it is the human expert, such as a clinician or supply chain professional, who will ultimately decide how to act on this information, drawing from their expertise. AI will serve as a powerful tool to enhance decision-making, not replace it.
Sandeep Akkaraju, CEO, Exo
- As healthcare costs in the U.S. are expected to reach $6 trillion by 2027, cost containment and the push to increased decentralization of care will be a top healthcare priority in 2024. These higher-than-normal healthcare costs are driven by an aging population who use emergency rooms and urgent care centers as their first-care interactions. Given these facilities heavily favor reactive healthcare needs rather than emphasizing preventive measures, this reliance contributes significantly to the high costs of the U.S. healthcare system. To reduce this burden and create more accessible, affordable care, we will see a push for more patient-care interactions happening in outpatient care facilities—which will need to be equipped with the same technology for imaging and diagnostics that traditional health centers have.
- In 2024, hospitals will realize the value of AI and automation in modernizing outdated processes that prohibit access to care—such as medical imaging. AI will be used throughout the entire end-to-end process for ultrasounds—from the moment the image is captured, to when it is analyzed, to how it informs patient care. This application will also remove operator dependence and significantly reduce inefficiencies, thereby improving both the patient and caregiver experiences.
- As AI becomes more engrained in the healthcare continuum, hospitals and caregivers will be faced with more challenges around medical legality and liability. With the majority of AI tools lacking the necessary FDA clearance for use in healthcare settings, health systems will need to properly evaluate their AI investments to prioritize legitimized solutions that will ensure patient safety and legal compliance.
Arun Nagdev, Senior Director of Clinical Education, Exo
- In 2024, health systems will need to leave behind software built for processes to prioritize workflow solutions that are built around the user. With a keen understanding of what each individual caregiver needs to effectively capture, diagnose, and treat patients at the point of care, these tools will deliver monumental value for an industry that has been often referred to as a digital laggard. By investing in workflow solutions with a focus on user experience, health systems will see more success when implementing new technology and caregivers will experience less burnout.
- The introduction of AI will create an entirely new education paradigm in healthcare, ensuring every individual has access to the skills development they need to perform at their highest capacity. A hands-on expert in the form of AI assistant technology will provide medical students with the proper skills to diagnose patients, allowing for real-time learning within the flow of work. AI will also be used in the classroom to build problem-solving skills, develop new curriculum, and improve the overall efficiency of learning.
- The combination of AI coupled with medical imaging will unlock critical predictive analytics for health systems. Caregivers will be equipped with the ability to see deeper into the human body and make smarter decisions about their patients, ensuring the best possible care from anywhere. These predictive capabilities will be applied not only to elevate medical imaging acquisition and interpretation, but also to alleviate the burdensome documentation that has historically led to significant levels of burnout amongst caregivers.
Frank McGillin, Chief Executive Officer, The Clinic by Cleveland Clinic
Virtual care is poised to grow rapidly in 2024 and offers untapped value and important benefits to both patients and providers, not to mention payers and employer organizations. While digital tools have already become an ingrained aspect of healthcare delivery, the industry has still been in the early stages of implementing virtual care in ways that complement and enhance in-person care, but we’re at a tipping point. In 2024, the most successful healthcare organizations will begin to look beyond simple technological implementation and advance the ways in which virtual care enhances their current provider services and workflows, not the other way around.
There is no ignoring the potential for GenAI. While I don’t think physicians need to worry about being replaced, we will see innovative healthcare organizations rapidly begin to onboard AI solutions to aid in areas like documenting patient intakes, generating follow-up notes and in working the back office to help ease clinical workloads. In 2024 the most successful digital health solutions—AI or otherwise—will deliver enhanced patient experience and outcomes.
John Fryer, Chief Revenue Officer, Lumeris
While Generative AI and Large Language Models were the hot topics of conversation in 2023, in 2024 they will transcend their status as mere buzzwords and become pivotal technology advances that shape healthcare delivery forever. While these technologies certainly have the potential to revolutionize the very foundations of how care is sourced, delivered, managed, and financed, the realization of this potential necessitates a robust framework of oversight and governance. I believe that the most immediate implications we will see in 2024, will focus on the integration of AI in back-office applications, supporting our care teams and providers to get back to the art of medicine vs. being data entry clerks.
I am excited by applications we are already seeing, improving both quality and productivity for monitoring and triage systems, population outreach initiatives and engagement strategies, and operational workflows. These advancements will streamline administrative tasks, enhance operational workflows, and improve overall efficiency within healthcare organizations. We are also seeing how the use of AI in back-office applications will generate valuable insights and data that can inform and drive future strategic decision-making. As we move into 2024, the synergy between healthcare professionals and advanced AI technologies holds the promise of not just revolutionizing healthcare but also elevating the standard of patient care, paving the way for a more effective and patient-centric future.