Issues in the healthcare system are usually approached from the patient’s perspective, with consumer-facing concerns, such as access to care and physician fees, getting the most attention. The struggles and challenges unique to hospitals often get overlooked in this patient-centric view.

As vital healthcare providers, hospitals are integral to the communities they serve. We rely on them for medical attention that runs the gamut from treating emergencies and delivering our children to being active in our communities through various health initiatives and educational events. For this reason, the most important issues in hospital management should concern not only healthcare administrators but everyone.

Top Issues for Hospital Management

Every year, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) surveys top hospital executives to help identify the most pressing issues facing hospitals. The 2021 survey revealed several main areas of concern, the top three being financial challenges, patient care and personnel shortages, highlighting difficult issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial Challenges

Before the pandemic, the number one issue confronting hospitals was economic challenges. According to ACHE President and CEO Deborah J. Bowen, “This is the first time since 2004 that financial challenges has moved from the most significant challenge to the second position.” Hospital management faces financial concerns surrounding the transition from volume to value payment models. Managing Medicaid reimbursements constitutes another substantial economic challenge.

Further, a 2022 report from the American Hospital Association (AHA) explains that hospitals are dealing with steadily increasing costs associated with supplies, equipment, staffing and drugs. This is an ongoing issue, but the COVID-19 pandemic added significantly to the challenge, overwhelming hospitals and leading to an increased need for personnel and additional expenses. While governmental aid lessened the pandemic’s negative financial impact on hospitals, that aid has diminished, and hospitals and health systems are facing billions of dollars in losses annually.

Patient Safety and Quality of Care

Patient safety and quality of care comprise the third-biggest concern of senior hospital officials. Patient issues are top of mind for all ethical healthcare administrators. But, again, the pandemic added to these concerns. Non-emergency procedures and routine care have been delayed to prevent disease spread and make space for COVID-19 patients. Maintaining patient safety under pandemic conditions has proved immensely difficult. And patient treatment and vaccine hesitancy compound the issues.

Further patient safety and quality of care challenges fall into three main areas: engaging doctors in helping improve the hospital’s culture of quality and safety, reducing unnecessary medical tests and procedures and developing new approaches to care processes. Increasing overall patient satisfaction is also an area of concern for hospitals.

Personnel Shortages

The survey found that hospital management’s most crucial struggle today is personnel shortages. While the rise in rank of personnel shortages as a top concern for hospital CEOs has been ongoing for years, the pandemic thrust this challenge into the number one spot. Need and demand for healthcare professionals surged while burnout, compassion fatigue and sickness in healthcare workers became far more prevalent — a perfect storm for hospital personnel shortages.

According to Bowen, “Both long- and short-term solutions are needed to address the shortages in critical front-line staff.” Bowen recommends increasing the pipeline of staff to fill positions in the long term, focusing on staff retention, supporting staff development and “exploring alternative models of care.” Furthermore, as hospitals move from volume to value payment methods, hiring and retaining top-notch team members will become even more important as healthcare providers must demonstrate they have the staff to provide quality care.

Other Pressing Issues

While not among the top three challenges, government mandates are another core struggle for senior hospital staff. Policies and laws surrounding healthcare and medical services can be quite complicated and are constantly changing. Other rising issues confronting hospitals include behavioral health and addiction, access to care and technology integration.

Clearly, many of these issues are interrelated, a prime example being personnel shortages leading to diminished quality of care and increased staffing costs driven by a supply-and-demand labor market. With the multifaceted and complex concerns facing hospitals, finding qualified hospital management executives is now more crucial than ever.

The Right Educational Foundation

Helping mitigate the issues confronting hospitals will be a key responsibility for potential leaders in hospital administration. Fortunately, while the dilemmas impacting hospitals may seem insurmountable, they are manageable with the proper training. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) program in healthcare administration can prepare future executives to tackle the challenges facing hospital management.

For instance, the online MBA with a Concentration in Healthcare Administration program at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) helps students develop the knowledge and skills to address these complex issues. Additionally, because TAMU-CC offers this MBA program fully online, working professionals can balance their studies with their personal and professional lives. The right education can ensure that future healthcare leaders successfully meet the sophisticated and constantly evolving challenges that hospitals will continue to face.

Learn more about TAMU-CC’s online MBA in Healthcare Administration program.