Changes to the healthcare workforce, patient demographics, and payment structures will alter the fundamental building blocks of healthcare delivery—shifting it from hospital to ambulatory settings—by 2020, according to a new report authored by healthcare-intelligence company Sg2.
"The era of the primacy of hospital is starting to fade into background," says Bill Woodson, Sg2 senior vice president. "We currently have a healthcare system that is very focused on sustaining inpatient facilities. In the future, the health system will be defined by physician practice and ambulatory presence, and by how it makes connections for patients across the continuum of care."
That change will be driven, in part, by a "payment landscape that would look frightening and challenging to the hospital CEO of today," Woodson adds.
Hospitals that reposition to succeed in the new environment—through alignment with physicians, performance improvements, and IT infrastructure—will be part of a dynamic system of care with multiple patient touch points, the report concludes.
One of the biggest challenges, however, may be workforce development. High demand caused by an aging population coupled with shortages across almost every provider category will be difficult to overcome and will require "doing more with less," the report says.
Midlevel providers will offer a broader level of care, which will help improve primary care physician productivity. Advances in technology will drive further subspecialization among other physicians.
Hospital leaders should begin preparing for the new healthcare landscape now, Woodson says.
"There’s some urgency around this 2020 thinking, because it ties in with the economic story that’s unfolding right now. Our members are surprised at how much the market has turned on them in the last six months and all of the sudden they’re dealing with a more challenging budget situation," he says. "This is the perfect time to change your approach to managing your resources and thinking about the future."