Although the acute effects of the pandemic have mostly subsided, the healthcare sector now faces lasting, chronic ramifications. As we head into 2024, healthcare leaders will still be dealing with a numbers problem: the pool of healthcare staff will not be replenished at a rate that can accommodate the growing demand for care. Although this past November witnessed a 2% increase in the median hospital operating margin, systems are still facing escalated labor and supply expenses and heightened patient acuity.  

In these challenging times, the health systems with the most determined and innovative leaders will come out on top. Healthcare leaders will have to do more with less. We’ve found that effective online learning is a catch-all for many of healthcare leaders’ top priorities for the coming year. Whether the priority is cutting costs and driving operational efficiencies, improving patient safety and decreasing workplace violence, or achieving workforce innovation, and beyond, adaptive online learning is an investment that enables growth. The healthcare education market in terms of revenue was estimated to be worth $108.7 billion in 2023 and is poised to reach $164.6 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 8.6% from 2023 to 2028 according to a new report by Markets and Markets™.  Online and virtual learning platforms are slated to play a central role, providing accessible and personalized education, and enabling students from diverse backgrounds to acquire specialized knowledge and skills. Moreover, data-driven approaches and artificial intelligence will be integrated into the curriculum, empowering educators to tailor learning experiences and track individual progress effectively. 

Looking ahead to 2024, here are some of the C-suites of healthcare’s top priorities, according to a report from Beckers Healthcare. 

Healthcare C-Suite’s Top 5 Concerns 

Driving operational efficiency and cutting costs with technology investments 

It’s no simple feat, but health systems must invest in technology to stay competitive — nearly half of healthcare finance leaders are prioritizing technology investments to cut costs. Lack of clear strategy, friction, and staffing constraints create obstacles for CFOs.  

Identifying areas of opportunity, such as workflow automation or online training, is a good place to start. For example: If your organization, like many others, has new workforce development initiatives, implementing a more effective online learning platform with adaptive functionality could check multiple boxes as part of a larger organizational goal — a smart way to compound success. For example, a health system implemented adaptive online learning for EHR training and saw $1.45 million in savings, 86% provider satisfaction, and 19.6% higher proficiency gains in 1/8th of the time training. 

Achieving better patient outcomes, reputation, and financial standing with improved quality and safety measures 

Quality and safety numbers have declined, making Q&S initiatives a top priority for healthcare leaders. Experts in the field attribute the loss of the progress that had been made in two decades following the initial publication of “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System” (2000) to several factors, which most commonly aggregated around clinician strain and burnout, exacerbated by the heightened stress of the pandemic — detailed in this report 

From the same report, these experts cited adaptive online learning as an affordable, practical way to achieve better patient outcomes. A peer-reviewed study revealed that following Amplifire’s adaptive platform’s implementation at a major Colorado health system, researchers found significant reductions (79%) in CLABSI rates. Without the training, researchers estimated approximately ten CLABSIs would have occurred during the post-training period – eight more than were observed. The cost of a CLABSI incident is reported at $48,108, so adaptive online training saves millions of dollars annually. With this quality and safety improvement initiative, lives were saved, costs were avoided, and the health system’s reputation was preserved. 

Improving workplace safety for patients and staff 

For CNOs, workplace safety is a foremost concern, as patient safety events that lead to death, harm, or life-saving intervention reached a record high in 2022 — without improvement in 2023. While the nursing shortage exacerbates workplace pressures that create hostile environments, it’s these environments where workplace safety falters that push more healthcare staff to leave their jobs. 25% of critical healthcare staff said they were willing to quit over workplace violence, according to a global survey published earlier this year. 

Again, CNO’s are being asked to do more with less. Leaders can tap into tools being used for other initiatives. If systems are investing in online learning to make strides in quality and safety, why not implement a similar strategy to combat workplace violence? Online learning is a quick, effective way to ensure your employees have the tools and strategies they need to recognize and de-escalate a potentially violent situation. 

Embracing the AI revolution 

As it continues to infiltrate many aspects of work and life, AI is no longer optional — particularly generative AI, which is projected to grow nearly $21 billion by 2032. AI is showing up in healthcare as a way to generate predictive models, automate tedious tasks, coordinate care, enable patients to self-serve, and more. While the reliability of AI is still heavily scrutinized, it’s undeniable that it can, at a minimum, help save time. And time saved often translates into cost savings.  

When it comes to training for healthcare professionals, we’ve seen the advantages of AI in the realm of content development. More efficient training solves many of the present challenges of the healthcare sector, but who has the time and resources to dedicate to content development? With AI, learning and development teams can create high-quality courses in a fraction of the time. Instructional design principles built into AI prompts ensure the content serves all objectives, democratizing the content process. Furthermore, AI can improve the learning experience by further personalizing the content delivery journey for end users.  

Cultivating innovative workforce development  

With their present set of unique challenges, healthcare leaders must innovate. The playbooks of the past will not solve present and future obstacles. Innovation is easier said than done, but those who make new and agile strategies a priority will come out ahead of the competition. And it all starts with smarter workforce development. 

For example, UCHealth developed a hybrid internal training program for nursing support roles that prepares a diverse cohort of learners with little to no experience with relevant skills training to meet the specific needs of their patient population. They created proven, results-focused online learning modules to use a learning check between virtual learning preparation and on-the-job training. The result was an improved 70% new hire retention rate, learning time cut in half, and a decrease in the number of open nursing positions that created a system-wide burden. This type of workforce innovation, powered by quick, effective training created a sustainable model for growth and development throughout the clinical staff. 

As the healthcare sector grapples with persistent challenges in 2024, ranging from staffing shortages to escalating expenses, the imperative for effective solutions has never been greater. Online learning emerges as a versatile and indispensable tool for healthcare leaders, addressing critical concerns in the C-Suite. From driving operational efficiency and cutting costs to enhancing patient outcomes and safety measures, combating workplace violence, and embracing the AI revolution, online learning stands at the forefront of innovation. As demonstrated by success stories and industry trends, it not only offers a strategic response to immediate challenges but also lays the foundation for sustainable growth and development throughout the clinical staff. In the face of ongoing uncertainties, online learning serves as a beacon for healthcare leaders, providing resilience, efficiency, and excellence in patient care as they navigate the complex landscape of 2024.