What will the hospital of 2030 be like?
Europe's leading public hospitals are facing growing challenges. As populations grow older and resources grow scarcer, the pressure is on to change for the better. To this end, Europe's top hospitals should shed more routine work to become smaller, more specialized and more flexible, with health care provision spread out across communities.
These are among the recommendations from a study by CRHIM, the Center for Research in Healthcare Innovation Management, a joint initiative of IESE and Accenture. The study was carried out from 2013 to 2015 by Jaume Ribera, Gabriel Antoja and Magda Rosenmöller of IESE, along with Pablo Borrás, executive director of Accenture. Based on interviews, surveys and workshops with hospital executives and key stakeholders, the study aims to help prepare hospitals for the decades to come.
The study focuses on two public hospitals: Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden and Hospital Clínic of Barcelona (HCB), Spain. These two were selected as leading hospitals in Europe based on their long-standing track records for safety and high-quality service combined with the complexity and range of their offerings. Both also serve as reference hospitals for their communities and are recognized for their excellence in innovation. For Ribera et al., working with two leading hospitals allows for in-depth questioning as well as comparisons to bolster findings.
"The Hospital of the Future" has been a hot topic recently. The co-authors first consulted the growing body of research and conducted interviews with top hospital executives as well as with other executives and policymakers working with the hospitals in order to identify the most important drivers of change. They then turned to online surveys and finally group workshops to prioritize the most pressing issues. The final recommendations aim to promote positive change and mitigate future risks.
According to the findings, preventive medicine is sure to become increasingly important in health care, with the development of genome-based diagnoses and related technologies. What's more, chronic health issues will increasingly be monitored remotely, via mobile apps and medical sensors. These technologies should allow patients to spend less time in hospitals, freeing up resources.
At the same time, a number of factors are making it increasingly difficult for leading hospitals to deliver health care effectively. Namely:
The implications of these challenges and changes are stark. Without decisive and well-planned actions, health care services could become stretched beyond their limits. But with the right moves, positive change is possible.
The report suggests an overhaul of the way health care is delivered. Leading hospitals should become smaller, focusing on complex services which require specialist knowledge or technologies. The rigid boundaries between medical departments should be broken down, allowing resources to be shared between them more flexibly.
Meanwhile, routine work should be undertaken at lower costs by community hospitals and clinics. Leading hospitals need to build stronger links with these community health care providers, sharing clinical expertise within these networks. Case managers then become increasingly important, coordinating patient care throughout the system.
The report also suggests that leading clinicians and other health professionals should be incorporated into the hospital management structure. To that end, it recommends that clinicians and other professionals receive more training in management and communication skills. New career paths should allow them to move upwards into management without any loss of status.
The specific recommendations also include the following:
Taken together, the study proposes transforming the role of leading public hospitals, moving them away from the provision of routine care. Instead, they would become multidisciplinary centers of excellence, receiving referrals of difficult cases and coordinating health care provision throughout the community.
In addition, clinical staff should be brought into management, allowing their medical experience and expertise to inform health care planning. At the same time, patient satisfaction should be put at the heart of decision-making. Hospitals will need to embrace new technologies in order to monitor and treat patients efficiently.
Transforming the health care system is likely to be a difficult task, especially given the current realities noted by the authors. However health care providers must take this task seriously, and this report will provide them with much food for thought.