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Turbo-Charging Healthcare Change: CEOs Offer their Perspectives

December 14, 2010
by Mark Hagland
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Cost increases, physician shortages color the landscape

The Minneapolis-based consulting firm C-Suite Resources, in concert with the Mountain View, Calif.-based Omnicell, recently released a report entitled “Next-Decade Predictions for the U.S. Healthcare Market: CEOs’ 2020 Vision for Healthcare.” To produce the report, C-Suite Resources consultants interviewed prominent CEOs from hospitals and health systems across the U.S. to learn their perspectives on the long-term direction of the healthcare industry over the next decade.

The panel of healthcare CEOs identified six core trends:

  • Cost increases will drive much of the expected change in healthcare in the next decade.
  • Awareness of the coverage and quality gap continues to fuel change, even after the passage of federal healthcare reform.
  • Shortages of skilled providers, particularly of primary care physicians and nurses, will be another major factor driving realignment in healthcare.
  • Demographic shifts including an aging population will also impact healthcare.
  • Technology proliferation continues to drive change, but information technology investment is gaining relative to that in medical technology.
  • Increased government intervention will continue to strongly impact the landscape, most fundamentally through federal healthcare reform and through the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

Following the publication of the report, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Donald C. Wegmiller, chairman of C-Suite Resources, spoke with HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding the highlights of the report and the report’s implications for the industry generally as well as for CIOs and healthcare IT professionals. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Healthcare Informatics: What was particularly noteworthy for you, or perhaps even surprising, among the CEOs’ viewpoints?

Donald C. Wegmiller: I think there are some areas that are noteworthy that have been more or less glossed over in this frenzy to talk about healthcare reform. The CEOs pointed out clearly to us that the shortages of skilled providers, particularly of primary care physicians and nurses, are a much bigger factor than the public or policymakers in particular, understand. And one CEO cited the statistic, taken right out of the U.S. Census Bureau—that shows that medical school enrollment is generally believed to be static, and that’s OK. The problem is, the population has increased dramatically. So the enrollment per 100,000 has declined 26 percent in the last 20 years, and will decline another 7.4 percent in the next 10 years. So in essence, we have, per population, 30 percent fewer physicians.

Don Wegmiller

The second thing the CEOs call out is that, what’s more, the demographic shifts taking place right now in the U.S. are exacerbating the clinician shortage dramatically. We have an aging population, so therefore, per 100,000, we actually need more physicians than we needed a few years ago. And the physicians and nurses practicing now have a much more balanced view of lifestyle and work. There are more women physicians now, but overall, most physicians will be employed doctors, who are giving up entrepreneurial opportunities in exchange for a sane work-life balance, and working 40 hours a week instead of 60 to 70. When you combine all this, we have a dramatic shortfall. The public thinks the passage of the healthcare reform legislation has increased access to healthcare. Nothing could be further from the truth; there is now increased access to health insurance. But the shortages will be dramatic. And the AAMC [American Association of Medical Colleges] has been lobbying Congress for decades on clinician shortfalls. So that’s one thing called out very clearly and nicely.