Hospital leaders cite poor planning and budgeting as top problems: report

Due to insufficient planning, some costs are being passed onto patients, according to the study by Syntellis. Leaders are also worried about COVID-19 variants and staffing shortages.

Hospital executives say they aren’t doing enough planning and budgeting, and patients are paying the price for it.

Roughly 4 out of 5 healthcare executives said costs tied to poor budgeting and planning are passed onto their patients, according to a new report released Tuesday by Syntellis Performance Solutions and Wakefield Research. The study included responses from 200 hospital and health system executives.

More than half of healthcare executives (56%) said they planned ahead one quarter or less during 2021. Healthcare leaders remain concerned with cost containment, staffing shortages, COVID-19 variants and cybersecurity, according to the report.

Hospitals and health systems have faced daunting challenges since the pandemic arrived, but they need to be doing more long-range planning, said Flint Brenton, CEO of Syntellis.

“We know that it’s more critical than ever for healthcare executives to prepare for every possible disruption and avoid costs associated with poor planning, especially with today’s tight margins,” Brenton said in a statement accompanying the report.

“And to that end, there’s good news: savvy healthcare leaders are leveraging technology and data in new ways to better anticipate needs and seize opportunities to contain costs, optimize revenue, and deliver high-quality patient care,” he added.

Three out of four healthcare executives said cost containment would be one of their most important goals in 2022. In fact, 37% of the executive surveyed identified cost containment as their single top priority of the year.

But the executives offered different opinions on the best methods to trim expenses, the report found.

A majority (57%) pointed to technology solutions as a way to find efficiencies, including using more automation to manage some administrative tasks. Others pointed to other ways to find growth, including workforce productivity (21%), improving processes (19%), and reducing overhead (19%).

Most executives see telehealth as a growth opportunity. More than two-thirds of executives (68%) said they anticipated providing more telehealth services in the year ahead, while 22% said they expected to use telehealth as much as they did in 2021.

About two out of three executives (65%) said they were worried about COVID-19 variants, while 60% said they were concerned about staffing shortages.

A little more than half of those executives surveyed (52%) said staffing shortages have caused more problems for their organizations than coronavirus variants. One in four executives (25%) said staffing shortages and retaining employees would be their greatest challenge in 2022.

Healthcare executives have good reason to be worried about staffing. Four out of 10 nurses, and 2 out of 10 doctors, have said they are considering walking away from the healthcare profession in the next two years due to the stress of the pandemic, according to a recent study.

Healthcare leaders across the country said they have been hit particularly hard by a shortage of nurses. Conversely, some nursing organizations and advocates say nurses need better compensation and support, and some have shifted to more lucrative opportunities at staffing agencies.

More than half of those surveyed said they were concerned about the cost of inflation (52%) and cybersecurity (51%). Hospitals have faced higher supply and labor expenses throughout the pandemic. Analysts have projected cyber attacks at hospitals and healthcare systems would rise in 2022.

Syntellis offers data and intelligence solutions for healthcare organizations. The Syntellis survey was conducted between Jan. 12 and 20.