3 healthcare challenges for the C-suite in 2017

Executive looking out window
Staffing shortages and rising prescription drug costs are two of the top challenges the C-suite will grapple with in 2017. (Photo Credit: Getty/Tom Merton)

Staffing shortages and rising prescription drug costs are two of the top challenges the C-suite will grapple with in 2017, according to a new survey of healthcare executives.

As part of its semiannual report, The Economic Outlook, Premiere Inc. surveyed 52 health system C-suite executives across the U.S. on the biggest issues facing their organizations and supply chains as a whole.

Their number one concern: staffing shortages. After years of naming health reform as the biggest impact on their ability to deliver care, 42% of healthcare execs now say the lack of staff is a bigger concern. Indeed, 72% report that the supply of primary care physicians is inadequate to meet their needs over the next three years.  And slightly more than half (51%) say they don’t have enough healthcare extenders, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Drug costs and shortages are also a major worry, according to the survey. More than 90% of the executives surveyed said price increases for pharmaceuticals and drug shortages are significant challenges for their organizations, a number which has held steady since fall 2015, Premier noted. To combat the problem, some hospitals use electronic medical record systems to prompt physicians to consider whether the drugs they plan to prescribe are too expensive. Another hospital has taken the most expensive drugs off their mobile drug costs to force physicians who want them to make a special order, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

Interoperability continues to be a challenge as well. Nearly 60% of those surveyed say their organizations are not able to access ambulatory data from their affiliated (nonemployed) physician network. They also noted that reimbursement and regulatory hurdles prevent the widespread use of telemedicine. Fifty-nine percent say they aren’t successfully using telemedicine for primary care visits.

Other highlights from the survey:

  • Ninety-five percent report operational and cultural issues around mergers and acquisitions, a key factor that can hinder physician productivity and integration efforts.
  • Sixty percent report an increase in their capital budgets this year compared to the previous year.
  • Seventy percent say that healthcare IT is a key area for capital investment, a trend that has persisted for the sixth year in a row, Premier reports.