The Top Priority for Health Execs

June 12, 2019

A new survey has surprising results about the one issue that keeps hospital and healthcare executives awake at night.

Healthcare executives are shifting focus from cost control to growing revenue, according to results of a new survey.

In Advisory Board’s Annual Health Care CEO Survey, healthcare executives are still seeking new and effective cost-avoidance measures but see top-line growth as even more critical. 

“Health systems have not given up their keen eye on improving cost control, and yet C-suite executives recognize the need for comprehensive margin management strategies that include revenue growth,” Christopher Kerns, executive director, Research at Advisory Board, said in a company press release. “Balanced strategies are the key to achieving financial viability and securing the strategic flexibility necessary to respond to new market entrants and disruptors.”

Respondents were asked to name their single top priority among high-level categories. Revenue growth led at 21%, followed by population health and accountable care organization strategy (20%). There was a three-way tie for third at 13% among cost containment, physician network alignment, and systemness, which means efforts to streamline operations, deliver more reliable and coordinated care, rationalize fixed costs, and even transform entire business models. Last year, 24.5% of executives chose cost containment, giving it the 2018 top ranking.

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The survey asked executives about their level of interest for 29 topics, including meeting rising consumer demands for service, developing a Medicare Advantage strategy and building an effective innovation hub. The top 5 areas of extreme interest to hospital and health system executives are:

  • Improving ambulatory access (57%)

  • Minimizing unwarranted clinical variation (53%), which refers to reducing the utilization of treatments that do not improve patient outcomes.

  • Strengthening primary care alignment (53%), which means improving the hospital-physician partnership to enable mutual success under different payment and care-delivery models.

  • Redesigning health system services for population health (52%), which refers to making organizational, facility, process, and technology changes to support care and payment models that promote improvement in patient outcomes rather than care volume.

  • Innovative approaches to expense reduction (51%)

“Executives are more interested in moving upstream to capture revenue growth through ambulatory access and primary care, rather than traditional strategies of boosting hospital market share,” said Yulan Egan, practice manager, Research at Advisory Board, in the press release.