HAP Blog

Reflections on AHA’s Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C.

May 06, 2022

CEOs, senior executives, trustees, and clinical leaders from the nation’s hospitals and health systems attended the 2022 American Hospital Association Annual Meeting on April 24–26, and participated in discussions focused on advocacy, as well as the regulatory and legislative issues that affect our nation’s patients, hospitals, and communities.

I was among the contingent from HAP at this year’s event, which provided a forum for us all to come together to discuss the challenges we face in health care. We know we have a lot of hard work ahead.

This year’s meeting featured insights from legislators, journalists, and thought leaders impacting health policy. Sessions focused on COVID-19’s impact on the health care landscape, the urgency for health equity, the importance of data analytics, and the latest cybersecurity threats.

Here are a few of my takeaways.

Our Top Challenges

Among all the important priorities, behavioral health and workforce-related issues emerged as the top two challenges in health care.

During the annual meeting, we heard about the complexities of behavioral health care, including high emergency department (ED) utilization, increased wait times in EDs, a lack of community-based post-discharge locations for safe transfers, and severe provider shortages that will require innovative solutions. We heard about best practices and care models that can help us tackle these difficult problems. We know we will need continued advocacy and action to address our growing behavioral health needs.

Similarly, workforce shortages and staff safety issues are shaking our health care system. Dr. Erin Fraher, the director of the Carolina Health Workforce Research Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, talked about her long-term and short-term studies on the workforce and suggested that the biggest piece missing in the workforce conversation is nursing schools and students. They need to be at the table during this discussion. I agree wholeheartedly that nursing schools and students are a critical piece of this conversation, as they are the critical entry point for our next generation of health professionals.

Supporting our health care workforce will be a clear priority going ahead. Dr. Fraher’s analysis showed a 15 percent drop in nursing college admissions during the past year. We also heard about a California-based study investigating physicians' burnout that suggested that giving 20 percent time per workweek back to physicians for self-care, teamwork, and social interaction and wellbeing discussions showed promising results. Addressing resiliency and the health of our health care workforce will be important going forward.

A Meaningful Finish

The three-day event which once again brought all of us together under one roof concluded with the Foster G. McGaw Prize ceremony, recognizing hospitals that have distinguished themselves through efforts to improve the health and well-being of everyone in their communities. One of the largest health systems in Texas—Texas Health Resources—received the award for its outstanding efforts to support community health and engagement and its response to COVID-19. This event became personal to me as I was the program evaluator of this award winning program, “Life is full of surprises.”

It was nice finish to an event that reminded us all of the challenges ahead and the opportunities we all have to make a difference in health care.

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