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Sustainable cost control tops list of priorities for healthcare executives, Advisory Board study says

The top two priorities boil down to cost and consumerism has surged into the top 5 for 2018, mirroring industry trends.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

When it comes to a hospital executive's list of priorities, there's a new occupant in the top slot according to Advisory Board's Annual Health Care CEO Survey. Previously occupied by "revenue growth," it's cost control that has taken up position as the top priority among health system CEOs. 

"While interest in revenue growth remains high, both of the top areas of concern were related to cost structure and management," Advisory Board said.

Specifically, the new top concern for hospital executives is "preparing the enterprise for sustainable cost control," according to the nationwide poll of 146 C-suite executives that was conducted between December 2017 and March 2018. This is the first time this particular concern has appeared in the survey, and it was a strong debut, with 62 percent of executives saying they were extremely interested. That level of interest is higher than for any topic in at least four years, Advisory Board said.

C-Suite executives voted "innovative approaches to expense reduction" into the number two spot for the second year in a row, with 56 percent of respondents expressing extreme interest.

"Health system CEOs recognize that any effective growth or financial-sustainability strategy must be built on a competitive cost structure in order for their enterprises to deliver high-quality, cost-effective care to the patients they serve," said Christopher Kerns, executive director, Research at Advisory Board. "The entrance of nontraditional healthcare providers, such as retailers and consumer-focused imaging and surgery centers, adds to the urgency of health systems improving cost structures, sometimes radically so, such as redesigning staffing models, rationalizing service lines across their market, and even transforming their facility footprint."

For the survey, executives were asked how concerned they were about 33 different topics. Those included building an agile enterprise, strengthening primary care alignment and developing a robust cybersecurity strategy. 

The rest of the top five were: exploring diversified, innovative revenue streams with 56 percent of respondents expressing extreme interest; boosting outpatient procedural market share with 50 percent; meeting rising consumer demands for service with 50 percent.

As a testament to the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape and the need for agile, flexible leadership, none of the top five areas of interest from 2016 made this year's top five. Also we have watched over the past few years as consumerism emerged as a driving force for change, and it has also made its way into the survey. Consumer demands for service rose from the number 10 spot in 2017 to number five this year.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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