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Hospital executives see bigger labor budgets, lower operating expenses in healthcare's future

Physician shortages are forcing healthcare leaders to re-examine how much they spend on labor, and where they can expect to see savings.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

As the physician shortage continues to worsen and cause labor problems in the healthcare industry, hospital executives are anticipating higher labor budgets over the next year, according to a new Navigant analysis.

Looking at data from the Healthcare Financial Management Association, the findings also indicate that leaders will try to reduce operating expenses by looking at improvements in labor and supply chain.

Of the 101 health executives surveyed, 43 percent said nursing shortages are worse than at this time last year, with 27 percent claiming the situation has actually improved. The news is only slightly more encouraging on the physician side, with 35 percent saying the problem is worse, and 20 percent claiming it's better,

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The same percentage, 35 percent, say shortages of mental health providers have gotten worse, while just 10 percent say things are better than they were last year. The problem even extends to revenue cycle management and coding experts, with 20 percent saying those shortages are worsening.

Where most executives found common ground was in labor budgets, with 78 percent expecting they're going to increase over the coming year, and 18 percent projecting increases of 5 percent or more. Just 14 percent of execs day their labor budgets will decrease.

When it came to reducing expenses, 44 percent of executives said labor will be a top priority, with 38 percent citing supply chain. Overall, productivity topped the list of labor management initiatives that will be made a focus over the coming year.

Earlier this year, home health aides topped the list of healthcare jobs likely to face the biggest shortages by 2025, with a predicted shortfall of 446,300 in seven years' time, according to a Mercer analysis. That's far and away the most of any healthcare job. Nursing assistants came in a distant second at 95,000.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com