3 Healthcare Trends That May Affect Your Bottom Line in 2020

By Clean Hands - Safe Hands

Which trends will shape healthcare in 2020 and beyond?

In the 2010s, the Affordable Care Act, telemedicine and an increasing emphasis on population-centered care shifted the way healthcare organizations provide services. To survive and provide top-notch care, many hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities became part of integrated managed care consortiums.

It remains to be seen which policies, research and innovations will have an enduring impact on patient care over the next decade, and which will fade away quickly. That said, here are three current trends that may affect your bottom line in 2020:

1. Continued emphasis on patient safety

Before the advent of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies and Medicare picked up the tab for any medical care necessary to treat healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Then Medicare announced that it would no longer reimburse for HAIs. If a patient developed a catheter-associated urinary tract infection while hospitalized for heart failure, Medicare would not pay for antibiotics or additional days of hospital care to treat the infection.

“The financial burden shifted from the insurers to the hospitals,” says Chris Hermann, MD, PhD, CEO of Clean Hands Safe Hands.

The next step in the push toward patient safety was the introduction of financial penalties for hospital-acquired conditions (HACs). In 2017, three years after Medicare announced the penalties, the government cut payments to 769 hospitals with high rates of patient injuries, including infections , blood clots, bed sores and falls.

In the years since, Medicare has put an increased emphasis on infections; now, infection data makes up nearly 80% of facility’s HAC score .

Recognizing the link between hand hygiene, infections and patient safety, the Joint Commission instituted new hand hygiene guidelines in 2018. (A hospital can receive a citation is a single provider misses a hand hygiene episode in the course of patient care.) The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade system – marketed to consumers as a way to choose top-quality hospitals – also includes information on handwashing and infections.

Bottom line: It makes fiscal sense to emphasize hand hygiene and prevent HAIs.

2. More big data in healthcare

According to Health Data Management, “artificial intelligence is an emerging technology area with perhaps the greatest potential to positively impact medicine in the next decade.” Currently used predominantly in radiology and pathology, artificial intelligence can sift through large amounts of data quickly, spotting patterns that may be impossible for humans to notice.

In fact, a study published in Nature on January 1, 2020 shared data about “an artificial intelligence (AI) system that is capable of surpassing human experts in breast cancer prediction.” In testing, the AI system outperformed six experienced radiologists. The study notes that two doctors working together is as effective as AI – as one may catch what the other misses – but in the near future, it may be more fiscally responsible for healthcare systems to invest in AI technology than pay two professionals to review each other’s work. (An added perk of AI: it can work around the clock.)

Technology’s strength is that it can scour “large data sets to help predict and identify patterns for improvement,” Hermann says. Many healthcare systems are already collecting all kinds of data, but don’t have the means to efficiently analyze that data. As those tools become available, it will be easier for healthcare organizations to spot – and correct – inefficiencies.

Already, Clean Hands Safe Hands’ Real-Time Intervention Blueprints are helping some hospitals prevent HAIs before they start by showing managers which rooms and patient conditions are at the highest risk for spreading infections. Managers use this information to shift staffing and ultimately decrease infections – and costs.

3. More provider shortages and burnout

According to a 2018 article published in Cureus, “burnout has reached rampant levels among United States (US) healthcare professionals, with over one-half of physicians and one-third of nurses experiencing symptoms. Burnout can fuel premature exits from the healthcare professions, thus increasing organizational costs as facilities recruit and train new providers.

Burnout can increase costs even if providers remain on staff. More than 20 scientific studies have now linked staff burnout with decreased patient safety; among nurses, higher levels of burnout are associated with higher rates of patient mortality and HAIs.

Workplace inefficiencies are a major contributing factor to provider burnout. In a 2019 survey of more than 15,000 physicians, 59% of doctors said that “too many bureaucratic tasks” contributed to burnout; 32% blamed “increasing computerization of practice.”

Identifying clinical inefficiencies is one way to combat provider burnout. “We can provide analytics to put programs in place and provide tools to help ensure that staff can be more efficient in their interactions with patients,” Hermann says. Streamlining tasks and eliminating unnecessary or low-value interactions can increase provider satisfaction, improve patient care and control costs.

To learn more about how you can better prepare your facilities for the future, contact Clean Hands – Safe Hands.


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