Hospital leaders have navigated an unprecedented barrage of issues since COVID-19 overwhelmed emergency departments starting in 2019. The aftereffects of the pandemic will linger for years, and some changes in health care delivery will become permanent. Any leader taking on the top hospital administration job must prepare to manage through these ongoing trials. The biggest challenges now facing hospital CEOs reflect the upheaval in health care since the pandemic began.
Staff shortages are top of mind for senior hospital administrators. Burnout, combined with a highly competitive labor market, has drastically thinned the nurses and affected the ranks of doctors, lab technicians, and hospital service workers. All of them have options to find less exhausting and risky work. Attracting enough qualified staff to keep a hospital running without cutting services is the biggest challenge now facing hospital CEOs.
Pricing and Financial Concerns
The advent of transparent pricing means hospital billing departments need an overhaul to present understandable bills and to post clear communication about how much services and procedures will cost. At the same time, hospitals face rising costs for supplies, equipment, and contracted services. Bringing in enough revenue to keep operating along with sufficient donor support to enable expansion of overloaded departments and services will take up a major part of hospital CEO time.
Behavioral and Metal Health
Substance abuse skyrocketed during the pandemic. We saw shocking and extremely worrisome rates of fentanyl overdoses. Opiate addiction continues to devastate families, who are searching desperately for treatment for affected loved ones. Meeting the demand for help with behavioral and mental health services will tax hospital systems for the foreseeable future.
Telehealth is here to stay. Not all hospitals have the means to acquire the necessary equipment or provide needed training to make it work. But patients expect it, and if they can’t get electronic consultations, they’ll go elsewhere to find them. Upgrading hospital information systems to handle the demand while also safeguarding patient privacy requires leaders with strong technical understanding and a vision for what the future of telehealth should be for their institution.
Patient Safety and Quality of Care
Staff shortages and burnout risks patient safety. When hospitals impose systems that require doctors and nurses to curtail the amount of time they spend with patients, restrict diagnostic testing, or generally do more with less, the results can be catastrophic for patients.
Hospital systems and boards of directors looking to fill vacant leadership positions are well advised to engage the services of an experienced health care executive search firm with a record of placing candidates who last and thrive among the challenges now facing hospital CEOs.