Healthcare leaders name 10 areas of focus for 2022

The Healthcare Executive Group surveyed its members as the industry deals with change at many levels.

Healthcare executives are most focused on cost in 2022, according to a survey of industry leaders.

The Healthcare Executive Group unveiled its top 10 focus areas for the year and cost rose to the top of the list. But when it comes to cost, executives are focused on prices, profits and transparency.

Ferris Taylor, the group’s executive director, said healthcare leaders are concerned about the costs facing their own organizations and the costs for consumers as well.

“The cost of healthcare is a core problem,” Taylor said.

Hospitals generally performed better financially in 2021 than they did a year ago, but still face higher labor costs and supplies, according to a recent Kaufman Hall report.

This year, healthcare organizations are operating under the new federal law known as the No Surprises Act. “Providers and payers aren’t on the same page with how we settle costs with the No Surprises Act,” Taylor said.

The law is designed to protect patients from being hit with unexpectedly large medical bills for treatment. Consumer advocates have said the law is sorely needed since many patients treated in emergency departments received hefty bills they didn’t anticipate.

Hospitals and doctors have said they support the law generally, but the American Medical Association and American Hospital Association filed suit late last year to challenge a portion of the law related to billing disputes. The groups contend federal regulators have tilted the dispute resolution process in favor of insurers.

Healthcare leaders also recognize they need to have a greater focus on the consumer experience in healthcare. He said the industry is moving from a physician-centric model to a consumer-centric model.

Executives leading healthcare systems know the system has to change. Consumers can shop for cars and virtually every other product with ease, and they want that same convenience in the healthcare system, Taylor said.

“I think there is a full range of concerns around how I change a healthcare system that’s very slow to change in the right way,” Taylor said.

“Change has to take place rapidly and it’s got to embrace the 21st century world that providers, health plans and consumers live in,” he added.

The healthcare industry, out of necessity, has learned how to be nimble and innovate during the pandemic. Taylor said healthcare leaders must take that same approach and can’t think about returning to life before the pandemic.

“We have to figure out how to live with COVID as opposed to thinking we’re going back to how it used to be,” he said. “There's no going back. That train has left the station.”

When asked what provides healthcare executives with the most anxiety, Taylor said, “Talent, talent strategy. How do I lead in a totally disrupted work environment?”

Healthcare leaders are worried about burnout in their staff during the pandemic. They’re also grappling with the challenge of managing an environment where some work in person and others are working remotely, even in different cities in some cases.

The group surveyed 134 members in developing its top areas for the coming year. Here’s the Healthcare Executive Group’s full list of its top 10 areas of focus for 2022.

1. Cost: Prices, profits and transparency

2. Consumerism: Aligned, centered and engaged healthcare

3. Accessibility: Primary care, points of service, and care transformation

4. Delivery: Transforming to achieve the Quadruple Aim

5. Health: Individual, population and public health

6. Digital: Value-creating technologies and tools

7. Leadership: Talent, strategy, and workplace environment

8. Payment: Value-based, collaborative, & equitable

9. Data: Liquidity, interoperability, and analytics

10. External: Policy, governmental, and non-traditional entities

Healthcare leaders isolated their top 10 areas of focus from a list of 21 options.

For what it’s worth, Taylor is also keenly interested in one area that barely missed the top 10: privacy, which was ranked 11th.

“If we’re going to succeed in healthcare, that’s going to be a very important issue,” Taylor said.