Nearly six in 10 chief executive officers say too little space, too few beds or not enough staff are contributing to a capacity crunch at U.S. hospitals, according to a survey of CEOs at general acute-care hospitals by the American College of Healthcare Executives. The Chicago-based ACHE is scheduled to release the survey this week.
The survey, which was conducted via fax in July, included responses from 487 hospital CEOs, or 57% of respondents, who named shortages in nursing and clinical staff as the first- and second-greatest culprits for the lack of capacity.
A little more than 70% said they were experiencing a nurse shortage and 67% identified a shortage of "other clinical staff." Too little space in the emergency department was a problem for 64%, followed by 41% who reported they lacked enough intensive-care beds. Too few general medical or surgical beds contributed to capacity shortages for 32% of hospitals and 28% struggled with operating room availability.
In an exclusive March 17, 2003, cover story (p. 6), Modern Healthcare wrote about bed shortages, identifying hospitals that were converting administrative space into patient rooms.
Thomas Dolan, president and CEO of the ACHE, said the survey confirms hospitals' reports of space constraints and a lack of available beds, while reinforcing data on the industry's ongoing labor shortages.
The survey also asked respondents to identify how they tackled capacity shortages, and which measures were most effective. Of the 76% of respondents who practiced the most popular choice-using quality initiatives to identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies-62% described the measure as effective or very effective.
Building a new or replacement hospital was ranked as the most helpful strategy, with three out of four of the 21% that did so saying construction was effective or very effective.
Expanding physical capacity-adding monitored beds or reopening "mothballed space"-tied as the second most-effective measures. Far more CEOs, 46%, reported increasing the number of beds than those who reported reopening space, 20%, but in both cases, 73% said the move was effective or very effective.
Developing comprehensive outpatient centers, which 28% of CEOs reported undertaking, was No. 3, with 72% reporting it was effective or very effective in addressing capacity shortages.
Dolan said the results will help CEOs share ideas and give the ACHE program ideas.