As the effects of the unflagging recession begin to hit even the healthcare industry, hospital executives are more concerned than ever about the financial challenges facing their institutions, particularly in Medicaid reimbursement and bad debt, according to a new survey.
An annual survey by the American College of Healthcare Executives finds that financial challengesroutinely the top issue for chief executive officers, even when the industry is posting record profitsoverwhelmingly was the issue of greatest concern for 2009.
All told, 77% of the 433 hospital CEOs who responded to the survey said financial challenges were their top concern. It was the largest majority in any top category since the first survey in 2002, and was up from 70% last year. The ACHE is scheduled to release the survey publically on Jan. 12.
Hospitals have always been stretched from a financial perspective, but this is pretty dramatic, said Christopher Van Gorder, president and CEO of four-hospital Scripps Health, San Diego. If you dont have a bottom line, its very difficult to be focused on anything besides generating a bottom line.
Behind financial challenges, patient safety and quality was the second-most cited concern, with 43% of respondents listing it as one of their top three. The result appeared to be an increase, although a direct comparison was not possible as safety and quality were separate categories in previous years. Quality received 33% last year, and safety got 29%.
But for the third-highest overall issue the CEOs went back to finance, with 41% naming care for the uninsuredan increase from last years result of 38%. Within that category, respondents named Medicaid as the top subcategory by an overwhelming 87%, followed closely by advocacy for funding with 75%.
Van Gorder, who has been nominated to be ACHEs chairman-elect for 2009-10, said he interpreted the results to mean that executives were more concerned than ever about the fate of state entitlement programs heading into a tough financial cycle.