4 Takeaways on Coming Shift in Health Services Demand

4 Takeaways on Coming Shift in Health Services Demand. A business man stands on a raised path that forks into three arrows pointing in different directions.

The coming decade will present significant challenges for hospitals and health systems as they strive to meet a shifting demand for services.

Rising volumes will require a greater focus on managing patient flow and reducing emergency department (ED) bottlenecks as providers seek to reduce wait times for those needing beds.

The evolving landscape will be led by an aging population, increased incidence of chronic disease and a higher demand for mental health services — all of which will cause inpatient and outpatient volumes to rise, notes the Sg2 2024 Impact of Change report.

The report’s disease-based forecasting model analyzes patient-level data across service lines and sites of care for more than 27,000 unique disease and procedure combinations, helping organizations understand their care delivery opportunities in the decade ahead.

Assessing Inpatient and Outpatient Volumes

Inpatient utilization can be expected to rise 3% to 31 million annual discharges while inpatient days will increase 9% to 170 million, the report states. This will impact patient flow in a variety of ways.

Growth in medical discharges, meanwhile, will outpace surgical discharges as patients age and are increasingly comorbid, exacerbating pressures in the ED to find patient beds.

Similar trends will impact the outpatient setting, leading to a 17% jump in these volumes to 5.82 billion. Robust growth is forecasted in outpatient surgical services, driven by expanded capabilities and patients’ procedural needs and chronic care required to manage ongoing conditions like dysrhythmia and dementia.

4 Takeaways on Coming Care Trends

1 | Double down on integrating primary and behavioral health care.

Inpatient behavioral health discharges and outpatient volumes are projected to grow 8% and 26%, respectively, over the next decade. This increased demand will place additional pressure on already constrained access points such as primary care and psychotherapy services.


Data show that up to 75% of primary care visits can include a mental health component, said Stephanie Snider, Sg2 director, in a recent podcast. This can include everything from disease management that brings stress to a patient to conditions like anxiety, depression or substance use.

This means providers will need to double down on the progress they have made in integrating primary care, specialty care and behavioral health to identify patient needs at the earliest stage. Offering more co-located spaces for primary care and behavioral health services also could make care more seamless for patients or offering a virtual hub to connect rural and other patients to services.

2 | Target your virtual care services.

The shift to virtual care will continue despite adoption headwinds. By 2034, nearly one in four (23%) evaluation and management visits will be delivered in a virtual setting, the report states. Behavioral health virtual visits will see strong growth and make up a larger portion of psychotherapy visits over the next decade, with 50% of psychotherapy visits delivered virtually by 2034.


Achieving seamless care coordination and verifying that patients can access your virtual care portal easily can help ensure that patients — particularly those with chronic conditions — stay actively engaged in their care. Hospitals typically will see more uptake in virtual services that are consultative in nature — think chronic disease, notes Tori Richie, senior director of intelligence at Sg2. Surgical-related services, such as orthopedic or spinal conditions, will have less virtual uptake.

3 | Hone your home care strategies.

Further enabled by virtual capabilities, home health is expected to grow 22%. As the aging, high-acuity patient population continues to require longer stays in the hospital (with 9% inpatient growth forecast), organizations must be intentional about how they plan their inpatient and outpatient service-line strategies, the report states.


Organizations should be asking key questions now to inform their future home-care strategies, Richie suggests. How many bed days could be saved by a robust care-at-home program? Lessons learned in the near term as hospitals and health systems refine their home care offerings as a key component of transitional care and interventions in older patients with chronic diseases will pay dividends in the long term.

4 | Expect a slowdown in bariatric surgeries.

A 15% decline in inpatient bariatric surgeries is forecast in the next decade, fueled in part by scaled adoption of pharmaceuticals designed to help patients lose weight and/or reduce blood glucose levels.


It’s worth noting that an increase of 13% is expected in commercial and self-paid bariatric surgical volumes moving to the outpatient setting.

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