Health care organizations around the country continue to grapple with pandemic-induced pressures, including high demand for patient care, staffing shortages and complex financial challenges. The Brigham faces these same headwinds, President Robert S.D. Higgins, MD, MSHA, acknowledged during the fall 2022 State of Brigham on Oct. 27.
But the Brigham community also has a proven track record of overcoming adversity — and that’s no accident, Higgins added. It’s the Brigham’s culture of collaboration, innovation and commitment to excellence that have contributed to our ability to persevere.
These qualities will also guide the Brigham in helping achieve Mass General Brigham’s five strategic priorities — expanding access, improving value, supporting research and innovation, advancing equity and increasing revenue — as the system continues its work to transform into an integrated health care system of the future.
“It’s clear that challenges won’t define us. They’ll just make us better,” Higgins said during the interactive forum, held live in Bornstein Amphitheater and via webcast. “This is not easy work, but it’s nothing the Brigham can’t handle or do. We’ve risen to every other challenge we’ve faced in the past, and we will do so with this one.”
Several factors are contributing to the financial pressures the organization faces, explained Daniel Morash, MBA, chief financial officer and senior vice president of Finance. Continued reliance on temporary labor and inflated supply costs — two trends affecting hospitals around the country — are driving up expenses. However, revenue is not keeping pace as patients come to the hospital sicker and stay longer, an issue exacerbated by a shortage of beds in skilled nursing facilities throughout the region.
Despite these challenges, there are bright spots in the financial forecast, Morash added. Revenue in some areas, including outpatient care and research, is trending positively. Additionally, the Brigham is working with colleagues across Mass General Brigham to identify systemwide efficiencies that could mitigate the impact of the current financial challenges.
“It’s a hard time, but I think we are as well-positioned as we could be,” Morash said.
Maintaining a strong financial foundation is vital to ensuring the Brigham has the resources to make the necessary investments in its people, services and facilities to deliver on the institution’s mission, both leaders said.
“My goal is to make the Brigham recognized as a workplace of choice in academic medicine,” Higgins said. “To do this, we have to invest in and retain our outstanding folks — people who contribute to our mission every day — and treat them as though they are partners and give them opportunities to continue to excel. As we work toward developing new revenue streams, we also have to find a way to continue to support our financial performance in order for us to do all of these things.”
Throughout the forum, Higgins and other leaders emphasized the importance of keeping patients at the center as the Brigham charts its path forward.
“We’ll maintain our focus on patients, be quality-based and driven by our mission, and that will define our direction for the future,” Higgins said.
Reflecting on his time as president since joining the Brigham community nearly a year ago, Higgins said he has witnessed and learned about countless examples of these attributes in action. One touching demonstration of this, he noted, involved a care team on Braunwald Tower 11C who planned a wedding for a patient with end-stage lung disease.
“This is just one example of the incredible compassion and dedication of our teams caring for the entire patient — not just their illness, not just their diagnosis, but their soul — and helping them heal,” Higgins said.
Higgins also expressed his pride in all the Brigham has achieved in research, education and community support, in addition to national recognitions such as the hospital’s position in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hospitals rankings this year.
“No matter what your role here is at the Brigham, we believe you have an extraordinary opportunity to contribute,” he said.
The State of the Brigham also featured updates from other hospital leaders about institutional areas of focus:
- Allison Moriarty, MPH, senior vice president of Research Planning & Operations and Innovation, highlighted recent achievements from the Brigham research community, including the development of a highly sensitive test that can detect tiny volumes of COVID-19 in the body — a promising tool in the effort to help patients with long COVID.
- Erik Alexander, MD, vice president of Education, reflected on the diverse talents and experiences this year’s new class of interns has brought to the Brigham, discussed opportunities for systemwide collaboration in training and emphasized that leaders are keenly focused on ensuring trainees have the appropriate balance of providing clinical care and time for learning.
- Shelly Anderson, MPM, executive vice president and chief operating officer, explained how the Brigham is collaborating with colleagues across the system to address capacity challenges through initiatives such as enterprise asset management, which seeks to provide systemwide visibility into availability of beds, operating rooms and procedural rooms for the most effective resource management.
- Maddy Pearson, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, senior vice president, chief nursing officer and the Beth V. Martignetti Distinguished Chair in Nursing, briefed staff on Magnet redesignation, which the Brigham is seeking next year as an affirmation and celebration of the outstanding care that takes place here every day.
View a recording of the event (access restricted to internal network and VPN users).