Despite medical demand, many hospitals are in the red

OKLAHOMA CITY – Four out of 10 hospitals will lose money in 2019, and that percentage is expected to rise to 68% this year, Oklahoma City Mercy Hospital Director Jim Gebhart said Wednesday.

“[Meanwhile]the demand for health services is at an all-time high,” Gebhardt said during a panel discussion on the health landscape hosted by the Oklahoma Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “It affects our ability to serve the people of Oklahoman.”

The hospital leadership panel also included Dr. Richard Lofgren, President and CEO of OU Health. Timothy Person, President and CEO, Integris Health. and Stacy Coleman, President of SSM Health St. Anthony-Midwest.

“There is no short-term turnaround. We have to think about efficiency,” Lofgren said.

Part of that is changing the way the workforce is organized, he said. For example, you can have pharmacy technicians deliver medicines to hospital patients and free up nurses for other tasks. “There will be new and different roles.”

A new analysis of nurses’ working conditions conducted by Skolalu found that 46% of nurses plan to change jobs because of negative health effects or long hours due to a shortage of staff. The report noted that Oklahoma has the fourth-largest nursing shortage per capita of the 50 states.

“Demand is already outstripping headcount,” Lofgren said. He said hospital systems need to be redesigned to consider the career paths of individual employees rather than simply assigning roles.

Keynote speaker Dr. Linda Chin said digital health technologies are providing useful new care options.

Co-founder and CEO of Apricity Health, Chin is a cancer genomics scientist and leader in leveraging technology and big data to enhance everyday care.

“Sick patients really want people to care for them, but there aren’t enough people around,” she says.

Her company’s virtual first responder service provides remote monitoring for patients to report symptoms at any time and access a multilingual support team 24/7. It also provides virtual management where patients can receive timely assessments from trained medical professionals and nurses.

Chin said this will allow clinicians to better care for their patients without burnout.

“That way, we can leverage technology to maximize what we can offer patients with our existing resources,” she said. “Now our medical professionals are able to practice at the highest level of licensure. I think it’s a must.”

Chin said technology can enhance the work of human experts, who are overburdened with administrative tasks.

ChatGPT is already being used to create pre-approval, referral, and patient education information that allows physicians to review and edit drafts.

“Undoubtedly, this is very helpful in reducing the burden and cost of providing care, but it’s not magic,” she says.

ChatGPT may feel smart during conversations, Chin says, but the system doesn’t use reasoning, doesn’t come up with innovative ideas, and doesn’t have a moral compass.


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