Challenges. Resilience. Innovation. Opportunities.

These four words help describe the current environment facing our hospitals and health systems — nearly three years into a pandemic that has transformed the nation’s health care landscape and our society.

It is no secret that 2022 has been a very challenging year for hospitals and health systems. Challenging economic conditions, persistent workforce pressures and surges in COVID-19, the flu and RSV continue to place severe strain on hospital and health system finances. Many expect these challenges, which jeopardizes access to care for patients and communities, to extend into next year and possibly beyond.

The 2023 AHA Environmental Scan released this week provides a snapshot of past and present trends on important issues that form the foundational pillars of the AHA strategic plan. It examines trends, interprets data and offers projections for the future across such areas as workforce, health equity, valued-based care delivery, consumerism and other factors that hospitals and health systems can use as they plot their own path forward.

While the statistics help paint the picture of the current health care landscape, they are but one part of the story. Despite unprecedented challenges, America’s hospitals and health systems are a powerful story of resilience. When the world shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, the health care workforce courageously continued to care for patients and communities. They witnessed the unimaginable and still kept going, proving once again that hospitals are society’s ultimate safety net.

We must support and reinforce this indomitable spirit and the promise it holds for the future of our field. AHA is continuing efforts to ensure that we care for the caregiver, that we make our working environment safe, and that we foster the ability for individuals to have joy in their work.

At the same time and in the face of continuing challenges, our field continues to drive innovation that is leading to better care experiences and better outcomes for patients. Hospitals continue to demonstrate how they are redefining the “H” in providing care, whether it’s in the home; through telehealth and remote monitoring; in schools; community centers; sports arenas; or anywhere that care is needed.

We are forming strategic alliances and implementing ideas to better coordinate care across the continuum, as well as focus on prevention and wellness. And we are continuing to advance education, technology and research efforts to improve health.

As AHA Board Chair Wright Lassiter III says, “There are so many things to be excited about in health care now and for the future.”

The 2023 Environmental Scan helps tell the story of hospitals and health systems. It allows us to analyze the past, consider the present, and most importantly, imagine our opportunities for the future.

Please use it as a valuable tool as we continue our work to achieve a just society of healthy communities, where all individuals reach their highest potential for health.

P.S. Our future is impacted in part by our actions right now. There is still time to contact your senators and representatives and ask them to include our advocacy priorities in a year-end legislative package to ensure hospitals and health systems are able to continue their mission of caring for the communities they serve. Please make sure your voice is heard!

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