Change is a constant in any field — and health care is no different. It was already undergoing an “unprecedented transformation,” according to the Society for Health Care Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD). Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, in addition to issues like payer reform and holistic care, which already had been changing the landscape of health care, a host of pandemic-related circumstances are causing the industry to pivot in new ways. The prevalence of telehealth and the recognition of inequities in health care are just two of the issues that have emerged to reshape care delivery.
By inspiring, coaching, and setting an example, health care leaders play a critical role in helping professionals in the field navigate these changes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth for medical and health services managers between 2020 and 2030, fueled in part by the need for leadership during these times of change.
An advanced education, such as a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree program, can equip aspiring health care leaders to manage change and influence success in a rapidly transforming industry.
How Is Health Care Changing?
Health care is adapting to a variety of new trends, from emerging technology to the changing behaviors of patients. Among health care’s changes are new approaches to patient care that incorporate emerging research, offer options for remote care, and address new types of health care competition. Below are some of the far-reaching areas of change that are shaping the future of health care.
Insurance Reimbursement Standards
For more than a decade, health care delivery has shifted toward health outcome-based models for insurance reimbursement systems — and away from payment according to the volume of services provided. This change has required health care providers to adjust the way they document services and outcomes, and to become more transparent with the public about the value of their services.
In 2020 the U.S. Census Bureau reported the population of individuals age 65 and older had increased 34% in the previous decade. This aging population is remaining active in their later years, according to the BLS, leading to changes in the health care landscape that need to accommodate the increased demand for treatment as well as nursing home care.
The connections between mind and body are receiving more attention. In 2021, for example, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a statement noting the effect of psychological health on cardiovascular disease and the risks for the condition. This holistic approach to care (treating the body, mind, and spirit) can be more complex than care that is just focused on treating a specific ailment. Individuals also are seeking complementary or alternative treatments in addition to traditional care.
Electronic Health Records
Health care professionals use electronic health records (EHRs) to track patient information. The use of EHRs has become so prevalent that, by 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 90% of office-based physicians used them. The widespread use of EHRs has led to increased demand for health care leaders who can organize, manage, and safeguard these digital records and the information they contain.
New Health Care Settings
Many health care services that were previously provided in hospitals are shifting to the offices of practitioners. This change is creating a demand not only for leaders to manage medical offices, but also for new ways for hospitals to provide treatment that extends beyond in-patient care. The pandemic accelerated this adjustment, with care delivery reaching new locations in the community to combat COVID-19.
Advances in science are combined with decreases in technology costs to usher in a new era of disease detection and treatment. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a promising tool in detecting stroke, for example, while the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology used in two types of COVID-19 vaccines is drawing increased attention for its potential use in other types of medical treatments.
Health care organizations increasingly are facing more competition that goes beyond local providers to include national health systems and various types of standalone facilities. This expanding competition is fueled by many factors, including mergers, acquisitions, and venture investments. Existing organizations face challenges in determining how to compete, collaborate, and find new opportunities in the health care market.
The use of video and audio visits, which previously had been an option, has become common during COVID-19. Consensus in the industry indicates this trend is likely to increase. A 2021 report from BGC Digital Ventures projects a continued rise in the use of virtual medical appointments, requiring health care providers to become more comfortable with digital tools and integrate telehealth into their care plans.
A 2021 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the mortality of Black and Latino populations, with decreases in life expectancy 3 to 4 times that of white populations. Health care professionals are examining the role that systemic inequities have played in this disparity in health outcomes for different populations.
Why Is Leadership Important in Managing Change?
Change often leads to instability, and leaders in any business play a critical role in establishing consistency and a clear path forward during times of transformation. An MHA program can prepare aspiring leaders to navigate the changing landscape of health care by focusing on skills to successfully implement a change management plan.
General leadership expertise related to management, strategic planning, and human resources can help guide the following change management actions recommended by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).
- Supporting employees in their efforts to navigate change, looking beyond just outcomes to also consider staff concerns and garner necessary resources
- Influencing stakeholders by communicating with all groups involved about necessary changes and serving as a positive example for those adjusting to the changes
- Asking questions and making changes to plans based on lessons learned and feedback received throughout the period of change
How Can Health Care Leaders Facilitate Change?
Health care leaders now are managing a variety of changes, both those that have been emerging for decades and those stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The BLS notes the importance of strong leadership during changing times in projecting 32% growth in medical and health services manager roles between 2020 and 2030 — a rate that far outpaces the 8% growth anticipated for all jobs the BLS tracks.
An MHA degree program that features courses on timely topics can set the stage for successful leadership during health care’s ongoing transformation. Following are some topics of particular relevance in managing health care change.
- Epidemiology — The study of diseases (such as COVID-19) in populations and how, when, and why these diseases occur
- Health care finance — Financial fundamentals and their effect on a health care organization’s success
- Information services — An understanding of data processing or systems to improve information accuracy and security
- Quality improvement — Techniques to improve the quality of health care delivery
Armed with the knowledge in these areas, health care leaders can facilitate change by taking steps such as the following.
- Gathering patient feedback to inform change and goals for improvement
- Being transparent with patients and staff about current and upcoming changes
- Offering a more holistic view of patient data and its use in health care delivery
- Providing professional development for staff that focuses on changes to health care regulations, policies, and processes
Lead the Way Through the Changing Landscape of Health Care
The broad range of changes in the health care industry demands strong leadership. The Ohio University online MHA program provides the relevant training you’ll need to guide changes to the business of health care — now and in the future.
The program allows you to take one course at a time and still graduate in as few as two years. This gives you the flexibility to put your education to work in your current professional role, even as you prepare for future advancement.
Discover how Ohio University’s online MHA program can help you pursue your professional goals.