January 25, 2024 | 7 minute

Transforming Acute Care: Top 5 Healthcare Operational Trends for 2024

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Some of the biggest challenges health systems face that impact financial and operational success include disgruntled staff and poor management of resources across all aspects of healthcare delivery. Embracing innovative technology like AI in healthcare is the best approach to counter these issues.

Through tactics like patient, staff, and equipment tracking, remote monitoring, and behavioral data gathering and analysis, digitization can transform your operations. These solutions lead to happier staff that feel valued, better patient experiences, and increased profits. Additionally, a stronger facility is capable of staying competitive in the field even during times of uncertainty.

Why Is Transformation Needed Now?

Data reports show a consistent trend in the most critical challenges in acute health systems today:

  • Financial challenges: After the shock that COVID brought to the healthcare system in 2020, numbers were expected to return to normal quite rapidly. Instead, it is happening more slowly than anticipated. Up to 96% of health systems reported investment losses from the first half of 2022.
  • Operational challenges: Up to 50% of workers in the healthcare industry report symptoms of burnout, with 30% seriously contemplating leaving the nursing profession. Nurses cite poor workplace conditions as their reason for quitting. Most report feeling undervalued and that doctors and patients don’t even see them as human. The result is significant staff shortages that exacerbate the burnout issue.

Health systems must step up and do the right thing. This includes addressing and fixing issues of workplace safety, staff burnout, and other conditions that lead to nurses quitting in large numbers. Nurses who feel valued stay in their jobs. Improving healthcare facilities by investing in AI and other technologies not only creates a better working environment but also leads to significant savings. For example, AI-automated clinical documentation, virtual nursing, and in-room monitoring simplify caregiving by saving each clinician up to two hours per shift. The decreased strain on nursing staff lowers the turnover rate to about 30% below the average. This reduction effectively reduces the need to hire contract nurses to fill the gaps by 58%.

After the upset of 2020 and the slow stabilizing over the next few years, 2024 is the time to take action to create stronger health systems. Data shows that the best-performing health systems that welcome innovative changes continue to excel. Meanwhile, lower-performing facilities continue to fall behind. Health systems can stay competitive by taking measures to invest in their nurses and upgrade their facilities with tech solutions.

5 Key Trends to Improve the Care Experience and Become More Efficient

These emerging opportunities accelerate a positive transformation in healthcare systems and how care is delivered to patients.

1. Bringing Patient Rooms Into the Future

Screens allow staff and patients to stay digitally connected to oversee all elements of care. Placing video screens in patient rooms can do everything from identifying the medical devices adjacent to patient beds to tracking patient occupancy to announcing clinicians as they enter a room. These simple measures translate to greater familiarity between providers and their patients which improves care.

Video cameras combined with personal assistants like Siri or Alexa allow for better communication. Staff can dictate notes while working to keep their focus on the patient with generative AI trained in care language. Imaging capabilities also provide the option to include patient pictures in records.

Screens are a simple, yet significant way to help reduce nurse burnout, increase efficiency, and improve patient experience. They allow for live patient tracking and greater data accessibility and effectively bridge the gap between clinical and operational care pathways.

2. Connecting Everything Changes Work for the Better

Tracking devices and screens connect data on patients, staff, and medical equipment online in real time for improved safety and efficiency in the workplace. A great example is remote patient monitoring. Instead of making multiple trips to each patient room, remote monitoring delivers data from multiple departments to a designated monitoring station inside the hospital. The ability to check in on patients in real time through screens reduces the workload on nurses. It also improves clinical outcomes so many patients can leave the hospital faster.

3. Fully Equipped Departments Improve Efficiency and Outcomes

Each department in a healthcare facility must have the equipment on hand to treat every possible patient need. However, this often leads to overstocking about 30 to 40 percent more equipment than needed.

Another issue is inventory and tracking. Poor tracking of inventory causes nurses to spend up to 10% of each shift searching for necessary equipment. They often need to leave the department to find what they need. The wasted time and effort spent locating critical resources causes staff members to hoard extra stock in hidden locations for future use. This further contributes to the underutilization of resources and inspires competition between departments looking for the same equipment. Implementing a digital transformation that tracks equipment in real-time eliminates the need for overstocking by improving equipment availability and utilization to save the hospital money.

4. Better Utilization of Non-Clinical Spaces Optimizes Operations

The average health system employs office workers who handle everything from billing to IT to facility management. There is massive potential to optimize these carpeted spaces by providing the right working space for every need. For example, meeting rooms for collaboration and quiet spaces for privacy. This increases productivity along with employee experience and retention.

Considering real-time occupancy needs has the potential to reduce space by 30%, which translates to about $20,000 in savings per seat. A 400-bed facility could see an increase in operating profit of up to 2% with minor digital workflow transformations. This equates to around $10 million per year. The overall goals of facility management in 2024 are realty efficiency, tenant experience, and green buildings. These are just some of the possibilities of optimizing carpeted spaces.

5. Behavioral Data Capture and Analysis Gives Critical Insight

The average patient stays in the hospital for 4.6 days. During this time, most hospitals know little about the utilization of medical equipment, clinical space outside the patient’s room, and the patient’s journey through care. The hospital concentrates solely on clinical data. However, collecting and analyzing behavioral data provides a distinct advantage against competitors.

The first step is capturing data on the five elements of acute care delivery — the patient, procedure, staff, medical equipment, and clinical space. AI analyzes data in real-time to provide best-next-step recommendations to staff, information to patients, and opportunities and risks to operators.

AI can sort through huge amounts of data to extract insights to increase efficiency and synchronize activities. For example, scheduling surgeries and ensuring the correct equipment is where it’s needed. Real-time AI data analysis aids in all areas of operations, including visitor services, security, supply chains, patient transport, and more.

Implementing Change Now for a Stronger Tomorrow

Taking steps now to improve the workplace for staff and deliver a better quality care experience is the only way to optimize operating efficiency and performance. Anything less is simply not affordable. Health systems that fail to implement necessary changes will fall behind by underperforming. This leads to underserving patients and compiling their troubles. By creating responsive health systems that focus on optimizing the efficiency of care operations and elevating the inpatient journey, facilities become stronger. As facilities become stronger, they make it possible to perform well even in times of uncertainty or unexpected change.

Get deeper insights into the role of generative AI in acute healthcare by watching the webinar on demand.