No one ever said coming out of a pandemic would be easy. And if the recent Change Forecast from Vizient and its Sg2 subsidiary is any indication, health care leaders will have to plan carefully to capitalize on future opportunities to rebound and grow.
Optimizing workforce retention, recruitment and development will be critical over the next decade as hospitals and health systems adjust to what is expected to be a changing landscape in patient volumes, higher-acuity levels, increased length of stay and preferred sites for care delivery.
6 Takeaways from the Change Forecast
1 | Slow growth for inpatient volumes . . . with two key caveats.
Adult inpatient volumes are expected to recover from pre-pandemic numbers but will grow only about 2% over the next decade. However, fueled by an increase in chronic conditions, adult inpatient days are projected to increase 8% during that same time, with 17% growth expected in the number of inpatients who need highly specialized care, the report notes.
2 | Reassess your care delivery models.
The combination of increased inpatient volume, patient complexity and length of stay may require hospitals and health systems to rethink service-line prioritization, service distribution and investment in at-home care initiatives, says Maddie McDowell, M.D., senior principal and medical director of quality and strategy for Sg2.
3 | Expect further innovations in virtual and remote care.
Delivering more care in patients’ homes could ease the projected stress on hospital bed capacity, and the analysis indicates this will happen. The report forecasts the following changes over the next 10 years:
- 19% growth in home evaluation and management visits.
- 13% growth in home hospice.
- A 10% rise in home physical and occupational therapy.
4 | Meet behavioral health patients where they are.
Demand for behavioral health services will continue to outstrip the supply of providers, Sg2 leaders say. They expect adult care psychiatric services to rise by 6% over the next decade, with many patients opting for virtual care options. Demand for adult inpatient psychiatric services will grow by about 5% over the next five years while the need for pediatric inpatient services will see an uptick of 11% during the same period. Health care leaders would do well to continue focusing on meeting patients where they are when they need care to avoid more complicated and resource-intensive interventions downstream.
5 | Refine outpatient surgery strategies.
Outpatient volumes are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels this year and then grow 16% over the next 10 years — 3 percentage points above the nation’s estimated population growth. The aging population, increased survivorship and the rise in chronic disease will fuel this growth, the report explains.
Look for surgical volumes to continue shifting across ambulatory care sites throughout the next decade. Surgeries performed at ambulatory surgery centers will grow by 25% and by 18% at both hospital outpatient departments and physician offices due largely to increased pressure from payers, cost-saving measures, hospital-based capacity and resource constraints among other factors.
6 | ED pressures to ease.
Emergency department visits are expected to drop 2% over the next decade, Vizient forecasts, and will remain significantly below 2019 volumes due to lower-acuity volumes shifting to alternate care sites, including virtual triage. Additionally, as pandemic-era protocols decline, infectious diseases, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis are expected to lead to a 3% increase in emergency department visits this year before decreasing 10% by 2032.