Experts have predicted that the U.S. is headed for a recession in 2023, and it will come on the heels of a global pandemic, an unprecedented healthcare staffing shortage across many specialties and the worst inflation in decades. But a recession does not have to be a source of dread for hospital leaders who take a strategic approach to planning and aligning with the right partners.
Our experience over the decades has shown that there are steps hospital, practice, and health system executives can take to rise above a recession and stay financially healthy. Here are the five things you can do now to come out on top, despite economic headwinds:
1. Prioritize your most profitable departments
Surgical specialties continue to be the highest sources of revenue for hospital systems across the U.S. Physicians specializing in orthopedic surgery, general surgery, cardiovascular and neurosurgery are in particularly high demand as our population ages and our country’s physician shortage deepens.
Ensuring your operating room and emergency departments are staffed to support patient access 24 hours a day is among the most powerful immediate decisions you can make for your practice or hospital system. But given the shrinking supply of clinicians, how can you attract and retain the quality clinicians you need?
The expectations of clinicians are changing and providing a more flexible lifestyle is more important than ever. Consider innovative staffing models like the Surgicalist Model, designed to better align with the personal and professional goals of quality surgeons who want to be part of a coordinated team, but desire predictable time off and a reduction in the administrative hassles that come from running a private practice.
2. Consider a programmatic approach to predictable staffing
Physician burnout is a real problem, driving doctors out of the workforce and out of your hospital – often without much notice. Instead of immediately turning to a locums agency for a temporary fix, consider a management partner who takes a strategic, clinician-first approach to ensuring consistent surgery, emergency, and anesthesia coverage.
With a programmatic solution, you can plan for volume. Clinicians in this type of model will be dedicated to your facility, serve on your committees, engage with the community at large, and work side-by-side with hospital employees as true team members. And, by taking call, they help reduce care conflict and give your private practice doctors the time off they need to be refreshed and at their best for patient care.
3. Reimagine your staffing mix and embrace innovative models
Every surgical department needs a mix of part-time, full-time and contracted surgeons and clinical staff to operate effectively. In addition to a shortage of surgeons, there is increasing competition for anesthesiologists, CRNAs and advanced practice clinicians, too, with staffing shortages even shutting down operating rooms and leaving hospitals unable to recoup lost revenue.
Getting the staffing mix right not only supports positive job satisfaction among clinical teams, it is also linked to increased case volume, cost containment, reduced cancellation rates and a decrease in unnecessary readmissions. All of this supports increased access to your services and downstream revenue growth, setting your facility up for a steady influx of patients even during a downturn.
4. Leverage your network
It seems as if every day brings new stories of hospitals being forced by financial hardship to close or reduce services. If you are in an area impacted by hospital closures, you are likely absorbing patient volume from those facilities. Staffing shortages make this problem even more complex and keep you from enjoying the benefits of increased volumes.
Remember, you cannot do everything alone, especially in difficult-to-recruit areas or in regions impacted by hospital closures. Reach out to other local healthcare leaders and partners to coordinate a plan for absorbing patient volume and gather tips on how to handle market fluctuations.
5. Take action and explore new vendor partnerships
A creative, flexible staffing partner with proven models that attract high functioning surgery, anesthesia and emergency services doctors and teams can help you evolve centers of excellence and achieve the stability you need to weather any financial downturn.
As published on Healthcare Dive Trendline