4 Ways Hospitals Can Reshape Their Future

4 Ways Hospitals Can Reshape Their Future. Clinicians looking at a data dashboard projected in front of them.

America’s hospitals have been a picture of resiliency in leading the nation through the pandemic. Now, as health care leaders focus on opportunities and innovation to drive recovery and pull out of one of the worst financial crises in modern history, they face a rapidly changing landscape.

The recently released AHA 2023 Environmental Scan provides a data and analysis snapshot of where the field has been and where it’s headed to help executives plot their path forward.

4 Ways Hospitals Can Reshape Their Future

1 | Expand alternative care sites.

Outpatient departments will grow by 18% in the next decade while home-based services will rise by 20% and ambulatory surgery centers by 25%, according to a 2032 forecast from Vizient Inc. Twenty-seven percent of evaluation and management visits will occur virtually by 2032.


Making access more convenient and in lower-cost settings should drive greater patient loyalty.

2 | Make health equity a priority.

A 2022 Deloitte analysis found that health care costs for the average American could triple by 2040 if health inequities are not addressed. Health care leaders are responding. Seventy-two percent of hospitals have at least one program or strategy to address social determinants of health in their communities, according to the 2021 AHA Annual Survey. In addition, 84.2% of hospitals report screening patients for social needs.


Building on these efforts will be vital going forward as advancing equitable practices are closely tied to the field’s core work of improving value, quality and patient safety.

3 | Improve access to behavioral health services.

Behavioral health care long has been underfunded, underappreciated and stigmatized. But even as the field continues to advance in integrating routine behavioral health services into acute inpatient, emergency and primary care services, the number of psychiatric hospital beds steadily declined from 74,533 in 2018 to 66,890 in 2020, according to 2021 AHA Annual Survey data. Likewise, the shortage of psychiatrists across the country is hampering access to care.


The most recent AHA data show that between 2017 and 2020, hospitals have responded by increasing telebehavioral health services by 44%, but these and other efforts to make it easier for patients to access care must continue. One potentially encouraging sign, global funding for mental health tech startups has been booming, with $5.5 billion in capital raised by these firms, according to a Fierce Healthcare report earlier this year.

4 | Test value-based delivery and payment models.

Alternative payment models reward providers for the quality of care they provide rather than the volume of services they provide, and encourage movement from the traditional fee-for-service system. The number of hospitals with some percentage of net patient revenue paid on a shared-risk basis grew steadily between 2017 and 2020, when 23.5% of organizations were participating in one or more of these programs. Meanwhile, U.S. health care payments tied to alternative payment models reached nearly 41% in 2020, according to a Fierce Healthcare report in late 2021.


Explore ways to integrate patient-centered care into APMs. This can be done by:

  • Emphasizing access to community- and home-based care options to meet patients where they are.
  • Build capacity to meet patients’ needs holistically to impact social determinants of health and advance health equity.
  • Increase points of communication (via telehealth, remote patient monitoring, etc.) between providers and patients to strengthen care.

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