What are Americans saying about health care reform’s impact on care?

Today, there are a variety of changes happening at lightning speed throughout our healthcare industry to expand access to affordable care, reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of patient care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). One set of our clients, the healthcare systems, are also painfully aware that there are more patients, an aging workforce, increased financial pressures and more regulatory requirements. But how do consumers—the patients—feel about the impact of health care reform on their care?

To find out, our team recently commissioned Harris Poll to conduct a national online survey of Americans age 30 and older to better understand how they perceive the impact of health care reform on the quality of staffing and patient care provided at hospitals, and the results are staggering:

  • 82 percent of adults age 30 and older feel that nurses within the healthcare industry are spread too thin and it’s causing the quality of care to decrease. Health care reform is forcing hospitals to find ways to reduce substantial costs, such as labor, which equates to over 50 percent of an average hospital’s total operating expense.  Recently, there have been many news headlines about hospitals having to resort to drastic staff cuts and layoffs to meet the bottom line; however, I believe this is a short-sighted reaction that can negatively impact the overall efficiency and quality of care provided.
  • 69 percent of adults age 30 and older are worried that there will be an overall decrease in the quality of patient care if millions of newly insured patients enter the healthcare system. This is a basic supply and demand story. For hospitals to survive and thrive over the next seven years as health care reform continues to evolve and reshape the system, they will need to rely heavily on workforce data. With this vital information, CNOs and Nurse Managers have the ability place the right caregiver with the right patient at the right time, using acuity-based nursing assignments.

Not only does this data-driven method improve operational efficiencies across the entire care continuum, but it will enhance the overall patient experience. As the patient volumes fluctuate, it will be critical for hospitals to use this employee data  to staff up or down in real-time to ensure there’s enough ‘supply’ of nurses for the new ‘demand’ of patients.

By implementing workforce management tools, hospitals can take a proactive, strategic approach to control labor costs, analyze staffing needs, identify coverage gaps, reduce overtime expenditures and mitigate nurse fatigue. This, in turn, empowers nurses to spend more quality time with the patients and provide excellent care.

After analyzing the results of this survey, I was most surprised to learn that 75 percent of Americans age 30 and older are more concerned with the quality of nurse staff in hospitals than the availability/accessibility of electronic medical records (EMRs). Hospitals are starting to prioritize staffing technology just like EMRs — they are the key ingredients for healthy information exchange across hospital networks of any size. We all know that health care reform is uncharted territory for everyone—hospitals and healthcare systems, healthcare staffing agencies, doctors, nurses and patients. The research findings solidified our strategic focus on developing the Healthcare Workforce Information Exchange (HwIE) to empower hospitals nationwide with the information they need to optimize their staffing. This will enable them to better manage the influx of patients, the pressures of delivering quality care at a lower cost, and the ever-changing healthcare landscape.

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of API Healthcare from December 19-23, 2013 among 1,717 U.S. adults ages 30 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


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