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Inpatient, outpatient volumes to increase over the next decade

The analysis anticipates IP utilization will rise 3% to 31 million annual discharges, with similar trends impacting the OP setting.

Jeff Lagasse, Editor

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Led by an aging population and an increased incidence of chronic disease and conditions such as behavioral health, inpatient (IP) and outpatient (OP) volumes will continue to increase over the next decade, impacting how and where organizations deliver care, according to the 2024 analysis from Sg2, a Vizient company.

The analysis anticipates IP utilization will rise 3% to 31 million annual discharges, while IP days will increase 9% to 170 million over the next decade, impacting healthcare organizations' ability to manage the flow of patients.

Growth in medical discharges will outpace surgical as patients age, and are increasingly comorbid, which exacerbates bottlenecks in the ED, while patients are forced to wait for beds in the inpatient setting, authors said.

Similar trends will impact the outpatient setting, leading to a projected 17% jump in OP volumes to 5.82 billion. Robust growth will be seen in both OP surgical services, driven by expanded capabilities and patients' procedural needs, and chronic care required to manage ongoing conditions, such as dysrhythmia and dementia.


IP discharges and OP volumes are expected to grow 8% and 26%, respectively, over the coming decade. This increased demand will place further pressure on already constrained access points, such as primary care or psychotherapy services, data showed.

IP bariatric surgery volumes will see a 15% decline in the next decade, fueled in part by scaled adoption of pharmaceuticals coming to market, but also by a shift in commercial and self-paid bariatric surgical volumes shifting to the OP setting, which is projected to see a 13% increase.

And enabled by greater adoption of technological advances, by 2034 23% of evaluation and management visits will be delivered in a virtual setting.

"You'll see more uptake in virtual services that are consultative in nature, think chronic disease," said Tori Richie, senior consulting director for intelligence at Sg2 and Impact of Change lead. "Anything that leans surgical, such as orthopedics or spine, will have less virtual uptake."

Further enabled by virtual capabilities, home health is expected to grow 22%. As the aging, high-acuity patient population continues to require longer stays in the hospital (9% IP growth), organizations must be intentional about how they plan their IP and OP service line strategies.

"How many bed days could care at home save?" said Richie. "What other capacity constraints could be relieved by a robust care at home offering? These are questions organizations should be asking to ensure resources are effectively deployed in a manner that achieves high quality outcomes for patients."


One year ago Kaufman Hall identified lower patient volumes as a persistent challenge for hospitals.

"Hospitals must continue to explore how to treat lower-acuity patients in novel settings as patient volumes shift to outpatient locations," said Erik Swanson, senior vice president of data and analytics at Kaufman Hall, in May 2023.

Jeff Lagasseiseditor of Healthcare FinanceNews.
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