Report: CEOs need more research on healthcare system challenges

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Hospital CEOs need more research relevant to the challenges they face in the healthcare system, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

According to the researchers, hospital executives face a myriad of challenges in providing quality, cost-effective care; however, health services research has not been positioned to provide hospital leaders with evidence to guide their decisions. The challenges the executives face span topics such as managing staffing shortages and productivity; implementing evidence-based medicine and information technology systems; using quality measures and data systems; balancing costs and benefits of medical technology; developing effective leaders; maintaining an effective organizational culture; instituting team-based care; and managing the changing demographics of patients.

The purpose of the survey was to identify how hospital leaders view key determinants of hospital quality and costs, as well as the fundamental ways leaders think about solutions to quality and cost issues in their organizations. The study consisted of interviews with 11 hospitals and healthcare system leaders. Questions focused on current and future challenges facing hospitals related to hospital quality, costs and efficiency, as well as the potential solutions to the challenges.

Hospital executives interviewed pointed out that research has not provided evidence on safe staffing levels and optimal skill mix. CEOs of rural hospitals have difficulty locating benchmarks appropriate to their type of facilities. Also, little is known about the impact of different information technology systems on hospital operation and performance, the researchers said.

The results suggest a “need to expand the methods utilized by health services researchers to make their research more relevant to healthcare managers. Expanding research methods to reflect the systemic way that managers view the challenges and solutions facing their organizations may enhance the application of research findings into management practice. Finally, better communication is needed between the research and practice communities. Researchers must learn to think more like managers if their research is to be relevant, and managers must learn to more effectively communicate their issues with the research community and frame their problems in researchable terms.”