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2024 Health Care Outlook: David Argueta

President, Mercy Springfield Communities

Posted online

Argueta’s 2024 Projection: Continuing to focus on primary care, keeping patients out of high-cost environments like the emergency room, is a continued priority for 2024. We’re also looking to advance workforce development through educational partnerships for diverse roles and embracing technology like artificial intelligence and the utilization of data to enhance patient care and operational efficiency.

Considering the ongoing challenges in health care staffing, what are organizations doing to attract and retain skilled professionals in 2024?
The ability to recruit and retain the right people is critical. And while we’ve seen improvement, patient needs continue to grow. It’s not just physicians, advanced practitioners and nurses but also nonclinical jobs, administration and all sorts of roles. We have to look at how to grow the external pipeline, as well as from within. This requires education and collaboration. We’re lucky that this community is one of collaboration. Working with institutions like Springfield Public Schools and higher education can help create a seamless and frictionless pathway to get people where they need to be if they’re interested in health care. The sooner we can expose students, even as early as elementary age, to health care in general, the better. Once hired, it’s our job to focus on being intentional, to engage the co-worker regardless of role, give them the best onboarding experience, and intentionally architect a pathway for them to reach their goals.

With the so-called first-of-its-kind collaboration between CoxHealth and Mercy on the pediatric services expansion, how will this impact competition among the health care facilities?
The reality is that as health care continues to evolve, for the vast majority of things, it benefits the community for our health care organizations to be competitive, because we each want to bring the best. The community wants us to raise the bar consistently. Sometimes, there truly is a situation, where everyone working together raises that bar, such as with the potential of a new pediatric hospital. This particular situation is somewhat novel, with two local health care systems coming together and partnering with a third, a nationally recognized institution that focuses on pediatric care. I’m glad we have the ability to be collaborative; we care about this community. That’s why we exist.

How do you foresee the role of technologies, such as artificial intelligence, evolving in health care delivery in 2024?
With emerging technologies, we need to always be focused on the patient and our co-workers: How do we make it easy for patients to access us and for co-workers to focus on their jobs and what they are meant to do? Not menial tasks in the background that don’t necessarily need human or manual labor. AI can greatly improve the patient care experience. Our industry-defining partnerships with Mayo Clinic and Microsoft allow us to use data and emerging technologies to improve predictability, catch potential diseases and health care problems earlier, and provide patients with opportunities for the best outcomes. From the data set, we can also augment the way we care for patients. I believe it will be transformational. A good example of this is our research into kidney transplants versus dialysis. When we look at our data, we can see that a transplant is more affordable in the long run and provides better quality of life. When you have millions of patients you can glean information from, you can use it to create predictable pathways and models to benefit those that we serve.

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