Top 5 healthcare quality priorities in 2020

Healthcare Business Insights, Part of Decision Resources Group, is a community of more than 1,900 hospitals across 50 U.S. states. Each year, HBI surveys our members on their top priorities. The findings of this survey allow our members to see the planned initiatives of peers and confirm that their strategic plans are not missing any important improvement opportunities.

This year’s survey results show that healthcare quality leaders are especially focused on the areas of patient experience, harm reduction, and addressing social determinants of health. Below is a summary of our findings.

  1. Focus on Patient Satisfaction and Harm Reduction 

A year earlier, the majority of respondents assigned the highest importance to reducing patient harm and hospital-acquired conditions, like deep vein thrombosis. It is no surprise that the implementation of patient safety-focused practices continues to be a top priority for many leaders.

That said, enhancing patient satisfaction and experience now accompanies harm reduction as the top priority for 2020, with 73% of respondents rating both patient experience and reducing harm as a “10” on a 10-point scale. In today’s age of healthcare consumerism – where patients will shop around for the best value—these scores can also help or hinder a facility’s reputation in the community they serve, making positive patient experiences even more vital.

  1. Reducing Patient Falls

Improving performance in fall prevention was considered a top priority among respondents for two years in a row. In the latest survey, 60% of respondents ranked falls as a “10” on a 10-point scale. Research has shown that most falls are preventable. Organizations wishing to achieve progress in this area will have to double down on identifying and employing evidence-based prevention tactics and engaging clinicians and patients alike in adhering to these tactics.

  1. Optimizing Sepsis Care

Another threat to patient safety that is often preventable but still a challenge for healthcare providers is hospital-acquired infections. As such, the survey also asked which HAIs or related conditions are the highest priority for organizations to eliminate. Sepsis was the top priority relative to catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line-associated bloodstream infections, and surgical site infections, with 80% of respondents ranking sepsis prevention as a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale.

  1. Reducing Readmissions for Chronic Conditions

In addition to reducing sepsis-related readmissions, there are a few other conditions that hospital leaders have identified as even more troublesome. Given the clinical and financial burden of chronic conditions, it is unsurprising that many responses said it was important to reduce readmissions related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure specifically.

Because readmissions are a chief concern within the community, the survey also asked leaders to select which methods are widely used at their institutions to prevent patients from being readmitted. The most common tactic is the use of a social worker, which is in place at over 65% of respondents, and a close second is the use of follow-up phone calls.

  1. Addressing Social Determinants of Health Among Older Adults

Especially within recent years, the topic of social determinants has become widely discussed, as more research has become available to show that social and economic circumstances greatly impact patients’ health and quality of life. While social determinants affect patients of any age, older individuals might be impacted differently by factors like unreliable transportation, poor nutrition, and loneliness. In particular, the effect of social isolation or loneliness has been well-studied in this population and has been attributed to higher rates of depression and early mortality.

Therefore, the survey asked hospital leaders if their organizations are focused on identifying social determinants of health among older adults, and if so, which social need has been the most challenging to address. Currently, less than half of respondents said their institutions are working to meet the social needs of this patient population. However, 20% indicated they are planning to take steps in this area in 2020, which underscores that many in the community see working to address the health inequities that exist among older adults as a significant endeavor.