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Healthcare Consulting and Services 2021
What Challenges Lie Ahead, and Who Can Help?

author - Warren Whitford
Warren Whitford
author - Lois Krotz
Lois Krotz
author - Cathy McCabe
Cathy McCabe
September 30, 2021 | Read Time: 6  minutes

No industry has been impacted by COVID-19 quite like healthcare, and many provider organizations now have new ideas about what the future will look like. For this study, KLAS asked 140 healthcare leaders (from C-suites to directors in both IT and non-IT roles) to identify which areas of future focus are most likely to require help from consulting firms and which firms are best positioned to offer guidance.

Industry Insights & Context

Top Market Drivers: COVID-19, Consolidation & Financial Pressure

top market driver covid 19COVID-19 | The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated consumer-level challenges for provider organizations. While healthcare leaders always have future development on their radar, COVID-19 highlighted the particular importance of digitalization and consumer engagement. Almost overnight, provider organizations needed to pivot to new, faster ways of communicating with patients, and many found themselves scrambling to accommodate patients’ needs through telehealth, virtual visits, online portals, and other solutions. Now that patients have become accustomed to this type of relationship, organizations need to step back and thoughtfully plan their digitalization and consumer engagement strategy.

top market driver consolidationConsolidation | In the last few years, larger health systems have continued to merge with other organizations and acquire community hospitals and physician practices. These changes create the need for more technology continuity, including implementing EMRs and other solutions to bring all facilities on the same platform and supporting various legacy platforms. Other top priorities for organizations bringing in new partners include cybersecurity and interoperability. This trend of consolidation is also tied to an increased focus on value-based care: having more organizations and patients under the same umbrella makes taking on risk more viable.

top market driver financial pressureFinancial pressure | When the pandemic began, fee-for-service visits declined, leaving healthcare organizations looking for ways to maximize value-based reimbursements. As the industry faces declining margins in general (not only because of COVID-19), healthcare executives are seeking faster reimbursement, fewer denials, more patient engagement, and more efficient processes.

Healthcare Organizations Tackling Emerging & Evolving Challenges Alongside the Usual Suspects

When asked what challenges they expect to face over the next two years, healthcare executives shared a mix of ongoing and new challenges. Topics that used to be on the back burner—like consumerism and digital transformation—are now coming to the forefront. Other areas that have been top of mind for a few years are being mentioned more frequently or being discussed in different ways; for instance, with value-based care, organizations are focused on how to structure contracts and work better with payers, not just how to start a program and work with CMS. Additionally, organizations are still planning for traditional, perennial HIT consulting projects, such as IT advisory work, implementations, optimization, and staffing.

top of mind hit challenges for healthcare organizations

Executives View Many Firms as Well Positioned to Tackle the Future

Interviewed executives were asked to identify the firms they feel are best positioned to help healthcare organizations solve the problems of the future. Most firms mentioned were named by only one respondent. However, larger, national firms like Accenture, Chartis Group, Deloitte, Guidehouse (formerly Navigant), Impact Advisors, Nordic, and PwC were mentioned more frequently.

number of times a firm was mentioned as best positioned to meet customer challenges

Executives say they draw on past experience when choosing a partner for a new project. Factors such as market knowledge and expertise along with firm reputation are also likely to be considered when executives are choosing a partner.

KLAS measures the customer experience of some of the more-often mentioned firms in this research. Many firms are rated very high, including some who received fewer mentions but have the potential—based on strong delivery to existing clients—to make an impact in their various areas of expertise.

overall performance score vs total number of mentions

In Emerging Areas, No Clear Mindshare Leaders; In Established Areas, Impact Advisors, PwC, Deloitte & Nordic Mentioned Most Often

Provider organizations are putting considerable focus on emerging areas, and many organizations are actively searching for potential partners. Some respondents say they may need to expand outside of their traditional consulting partnerships to get different perspectives on these new challenges. For example, healthcare organizations feel they could benefit from other industries’ experience with consumer engagement. PwC is the large consulting firm most commonly identified as a potential partner for emerging challenges. Respondents feel PwC’s strategic approach could set them up well to tackle new challenges.

Value-based care and the related areas of analytics, payers, and interoperability are evolving, with organizations putting more focus on capitated contracts, payer collaboration, and acquisition of complete patient data (clinical and claims). For help in these evolving areas, most organizations report that they would turn to firms they have had a positive experience with in the past.

In established areas, large firms tend to have the highest mindshare. Nordic received the most mentions in staffing, while Impact Advisors leads for mentions in IT implementation and IT advisory services. As seen with other segment types, when choosing a partner in an established segment, healthcare executives are likely to consider and choose firms they have had positive experiences with—in these cases, organizations benefit from working with a familiar partner they can trust to deliver high quality.

percent of respondents who could not name a firm suited to their challenges by challenge type
firms mentioned as best positioned to meet challenges in emerging areas firms mentioned as best positioned to meet challenges in evolving areas firms mentioned as best positioned to meet challenges in established areas
firms highlighted by respondents for best experience or missed expectations

PwC, Impact Advisors Most Often Deliver Great Experiences; Deloitte Most Likely to Miss Expectations

In addition to examining which firms are top of mind, KLAS also asked healthcare leaders to identify the firms that have delivered a stellar experience and those that have not lived up to expectations. PwC and Impact Advisors received the most positive mentions. PwC is praised for their consultants’ professionalism, insights, and talent. One interviewer client said they appreciate PwC’s willingness to think creatively and tailor their solutions to the problem at hand rather than relying on cookie-cutter deliverables. Impact Advisors is noted for their leadership in planning and managing projects as well as their ability to be proactive and insightful. Deloitte was the firm most often called out for missing expectations; cited issues include nickel-and-diming and process rigidity that keeps the firm from meeting client needs.

Across firms, executives frequently attribute great experiences to expert, strategic, partnership-focused consultants. Conversely, common causes of negative experiences include lower-than-expected knowledge levels among staff, insufficient value for the cost, or deliverables that are not actionable enough.

factors leading to best experience with firm or missed expectations

Non-IT C-Suite More Focused on Strategy & VBC; IT Counterparts Aim to Address Implementation & Staffing Challenges

segments mentioned by c suite executives as a focus

About This Report

This report draws mainly on perception data collected from 140 healthcare organization leaders regarding the challenges they anticipate tackling in the future and which firms they would most likely partner with for guidance on these challenges. Firms not discussed as top of mind for a particular challenge may still offer services in that area, but respondents did not bring them up in the research interviews KLAS conducted for this study.

author - Amanda Wind Smith
Amanda Wind Smith
author - Natalie Jamison
Natalie Jamison
author - Natalie Jamison
Project Manager
Natalie Jamison
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This material is copyrighted. Any organization gaining unauthorized access to this report will be liable to compensate KLAS for the full retail price. Please see the KLAS DATA USE POLICY for information regarding use of this report. © 2024 KLAS Research, LLC. All Rights Reserved. NOTE: Performance scores may change significantly when including newly interviewed provider organizations, especially when added to a smaller sample size like in emerging markets with a small number of live clients. The findings presented are not meant to be conclusive data for an entire client base.