CU Denver Study Finds More than 64% Health CEOs are Concerned About Pandemic Challenges  

The report is the inaugural study released by the new Health Administration Research Consortium  

March 25, 2021

In ground-breaking research released today, researchers found that the “new normal,” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, provides both disruptions and unique growth opportunities for health systems. This report is the first released from CU Denver’s Health Administration Research Consortium (HARC), which included input from over 100 health system CEOs around the United States. The research is led by Jiban Khuntia, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of HARC, with the team of research fellows Xue Ning and Naser Shekarian, and Rulon, Stacey, PhD, Director of Health Administration Programs.  

The report highlights that health system CEOs are concerned about challenges in the new normal. Specifically, their concerns include keeping up with technology, regulatory changes, fiscal burden, and cyber threats. Nevertheless, CEOs believe that digital and intelligent technologies, new strategic mindsets, and hiring a diverse workforce can sway these challenges into growth opportunities.  

According to the research, only 35% of CEOs believe the “new normal” is presenting new opportunities for health systems and less than half believe it will increase opportunities to identify new revenue growth. However, as noted in the research, the CEOs noted that there were many lessons learned and industry advances during the last year that could not have happened were it not for the pandemic, specifically those advances surrounding development and utilization of new technology.  

Insights from the report directs the attention for health systems to three major aspects:

The Technology Imperative: “The new normal is pushing a new wave of technology adoption,” said Khuntia. “Information technology, which saw its long-awaited acceptance in 2020, will continue to see logarithmic growth in the next few months.” We’ll begin to see organizations prepare for this growth and be more prepared to meet the needs of their patients. 85% of CEOs surveyed see remote, tele- and virtual care as the important growth opportunity, but are concerned about aligned insurance and reimbursement models, as reported by 65% CEOs. However, 72% of CEOs value mining and analysis and 65% value artificial intelligence and machine learning. This is encouraging, as seen during the pandemic, the role of artificial and machine intelligence is emerging to become important for healthcare innovation, access, quality and safety.   

Competitive Advantages in the New Normal: No One Size Fits All: To maintain competitive advantages in the new normal, health systems with different revenues and sizes have different responses. High revenue health systems have been proactive in digital transformations through investments and other aligned approaches. Medium to low revenue size health systems are reevaluating their businesses, trying to build meaningful partnerships while trying to react to the developments in the new normal. They are also concerned that new entrants and competitive offerings. Mergers and acquisitions will increase as well, with a focus on community systems engaging with academic health systems. 

Staffing in the Post-COVID World: There will an increase in hiring within the healthcare industry over the next 12 months. Collaboration with academia and universities has been identified as one strategic direction by CEOs. Relevant research will support the decision-making and plan development in health systems. Such collaboration also can help health systems to enhance their workforce’s capabilities through training programs. 

As the first report to come out of HARC, it includes original research from CEOs of health systems from around the country. This report gives the first insight into these cultural expectations and provides groundbreaking research available to all. What makes this report unique is that the research is posted directly to HARC’s website rather than published in a paper in an academic journal. This enables the information to be available to everyone simultaneously. 

“Reporting cutting-edge and actionable research to the healthcare industry reflects one of the Business School’s most salient strategic priorities”, notes Scott Dawson, PhD, Dean of CU Denver Business School in a foreword to the report.  In the same line, Stacey remarks “the findings of the study turned out to be so meaningful to the current environment that we chose to publish all the information the HARC website for all to see and analyze independently.”

Click here to read the full report