Connecticut hospitals and health systems are mission-driven organizations, with a commitment to be prepared for whatever healthcare challenges arise. As always, Connecticut hospitals and health systems are focused on eliminating preventable infections and errors that lead to patient harm. Hospitals work individually and collaboratively in state and national programs, as well as with partners in the community to enhance patient support and to improve quality.
Connecticut hospitals and health systems are known nationally for driving culture change through high reliability safety practices, reducing serious safety events in Connecticut by 84 percent over the past seven years. These tools have proven effective during the pandemic as we participate in emergency planning and response.
The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a rise in the prevalence of mental health and substance misuse conditions, which has exacerbated the pre-existing care crisis in Connecticut among those living with behavioral health issues.
In the fall of 2021, CHA convened an incident command structure response with hospitals to address demand for pediatric and adult behavioral health services at hospital emergency departments and for psychiatric inpatient beds. Yet hospitals are only a part of the solution, which must include expanded mobile crisis services and family respite care, as well as outpatient and partial hospitalization services, school-based and home-based care for both children and adults suffering from behavioral health issues.
Workforce Development, Recruitment and Retention
Hospitals across the country are struggling to retain doctors, nurses, and others on the care team in the wake of pandemic-related demands, and as the workforce ages and retires. Workers are tired after nearly two years on the COVID-19 battle lines. Hospitals are creating new ways to keep their employees resilient, encouraging personal time off, supporting team dialog around challenges and stress, and focusing on appreciation. In addition they are employing other retention strategies including providing financial incentives, identifying opportunities for career advancement, and supporting continuing education. The costs of providing hospital services increases as wages for these jobs rise. At the same time, educational institutions don’t have the space and teachers to accommodate the need for growth. This is a key area of focus among hospitals working together to keep our healthcare system strong.
While most hospitals in Connecticut are not-for-profit and tax exempt, they are one of the largest sources of tax revenue for the state of Connecticut. In 2019, Governor Ned Lamont and the hospitals announced a historic settlement of a longstanding dispute around the hospital tax. In accordance with that settlement, hospitals received the second year of tax burden reduction in 2021, while providing more than $583 million in revenue gain for the state. The settlement covers seven years—through 2026—reduces the tax burden on hospitals, and preserves revenue gains for the state in each year.
Health Equity and Social Influencers of Health
Increasingly, hospitals are joining with community partners to identify and develop solutions for social conditions that are the precursors to poor health, negative healthcare outcomes, and associated health disparities. Poor nutrition, air quality, living conditions, and lack of economic stability and mobility contribute to chronic disease and increased need for medical care. The generational wealth gap, particularly among communities of color, has contributed to health inequities that have become starkly visible during the pandemic, creating a renewed focus on solutions that will afford meaningful opportunities for these communities to prosper.
As the healthcare landscape continues to shift, hospitals are making changes, increasing access to services, partnering with others to improve the health and health equity in our communities, and growing to meet the evolving demands of the communities we serve. Connecticut’s process for regulating service delivery changes—called the Certificate of Need (CON) process—has not kept pace with the transformation in healthcare. Hospitals will pursue changes in the process that level the playing field for all healthcare providers and entities, and reduce the regulatory burden on hospitals.
Connecticut hospitals and health systems are committed to reducing costs and making sure healthcare is affordable and accessible to everyone. Hospitals have been and continue to be supportive of the Healthcare Cost Growth Benchmark—when properly implemented, it can be a tool in measuring and controlling healthcare spending across the healthcare delivery system. Patients need information about their healthcare in order to make informed choices and to know what to expect. Hospitals strive to offer clear and meaningful pricing information and work directly with patients to avoid unanticipated patient costs. Patients have many resources available to assist in the bill payment process and hospitals encourage patients to discuss the costs of their services with their provider or insurance company.