Even prior to the pandemic, the biggest questions facing health care providers were: Where is our field headed? And, how can we continue to innovate and transform to deliver the best possible patient care in a fast-changing future?

With all due respect to Yogi Berra’s famous line “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” we aim by this week’s release of the 2024 AHA Environmental Scan  to offer care providers the data, surveys, trends and thought leadership that illustrates our most pressing issues and helps them plan ahead.

At the AHA, we tell the hospital story. Whether it is to policymakers, the media or the public, we show the healing and the hope, the caring and the compassion that you bring each day to the patients and communities you serve.

We tell the story through data and research, and this year’s Environmental Scan contains important information on trends in workforce, consumerism, care transformation and more.

We tell the story by capturing the current state of the field. This year saw modest improvements in hospital and health system finances, yet sky-high expenses, cuts in Medicaid enrollment, and commercial insurer practices that delay and deny patient care loom large as barriers on the road to recovery and sustainability. Moody’s Investors Service has indicated that the “budgetary aftershocks from COVID-driven labor stresses will reverberate for years to come, suppressing operating results through at least 2024.”

We tell the story by spotlighting emerging trends, providing a glimpse into a reimagined future for our field. It is a future that redefines the “H” to provide care outside of the hospital walls. It is a future with a greater focus on prevention and wellness. It is a future where we more fully meet the challenges of an aging population and growing rates of chronic disease.

We tell the story by highlighting innovation, how hospitals and health systems are harnessing new technologies to improve quality and safety and the patient care experience. Artificial intelligence is featured throughout the report, noting the possibility of improving operational efficiency and consumer engagement. Wider adoption of AI could lead to savings of 5% to 10% in U.S. health care spending — $200 billion to $360 billion annually. As much as 30% of nurses’ tasks could potentially be shifted to automation, which can help alleviate the nursing shortage and allow nurses to devote more time to caring for patients.

Information is power. We hope you find the 2024 AHA Environmental Scan a valuable resource in your strategic planning, guiding you and colleagues across the nation in building the future of health care.

We can all take great pride in knowing that every day, all across the country, the people of America’s hospitals and health systems continue to strengthen their ability to carry out the sacred mission to always be there, ready to care for the patients and communities they serve.

Thank you for all that you do.

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