Top forecasting methods for effective healthcare financial planning in 2024

Financial success for Healthcare Centers starts with informed decisions. Learn the top effective forecasting methods shaping 2024 for improved financial planning outcomes.

The top Healthcare Forecasting Methods for effective financial planning in 2024 are: 

1. Demand Forecasting

2. Zero-based budgeting

3. Scenario Planning

4. Driver-Based Planning

As Healthcare Centers prepare to navigate the financial ups and downs of 2024, effective forecasting becomes the tool that will enable each one to achieve operational excellence, financial sustainability, and high-quality patient care.

What does effective healthcare forecasting mean?

Many healthcare organizations rely only on historical data to plan for the year ahead. However, the inaccuracy of it can leave centers unable to change or adapt to financial and operational challenges.

Dynamic forecasting, instead, relies on multiple data sources (historical and real-time) to enable Healthcare Centers to forecast and reforecast as needed. This doesn’t mean budget allocation and other operational factors won’t consider the original plan and goals. It just means it will have the means to synchronize plans and budgets with realistic timeframes and expectations.

Healthcare forecasting: top effective methods

Demand forecasting

Demand forecasting is critical to healthcare management, helping organizations anticipate patient needs and allocate resources accordingly. 

Predictive modeling can analyze historical data, patient demographics, and external factors to project future patient volumes. This method enables healthcare centers to optimize staffing levels, manage bed capacity, and ensure the availability of necessary medical supplies.

Additionally, demand forecasting can extend to specific services, such as elective surgeries, diagnostic procedures, and outpatient visits. This granular approach allows healthcare centers to tailor their operations to the particular needs of their patient population, enhancing overall efficiency and patient satisfaction.

Zero-based budgeting

Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) is a strategic financial planning approach that involves building budgets from scratch, reevaluating every expense, and justifying each cost. In the context of healthcare centers, ZBB is particularly effective in promoting financial discipline and resource optimization. In 2024, healthcare organizations can leverage ZBB to align budgetary allocations with strategic priorities and eliminate inefficiencies.

By starting with a "zero base" and requiring justification for every budget line item, healthcare centers can identify areas where costs can be reduced without compromising patient care. This method encourages a holistic examination of spending patterns, enabling organizations to allocate resources where they are most needed. 

Scenario planning

A method that allows healthcare centers to prepare for various possible futures, plus anticipate and mitigate the impact of external factors, such as public health crises, regulatory changes, or economic shifts.

Developing multiple scenarios with different assumptions and outcomes enables healthcare centers to identify robust strategies across various conditions. This proactive approach enhances resilience and agility, allowing organizations to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. 

Driver-based planning

Driver-based planning is a method that links operational drivers, such as patient volumes, to financial outcomes. This method involves identifying key operational drivers and building financial models that reflect the impact of changes in these drivers on the organization's financial performance.

For example, changes in the number of admissions, average length of stay, or reimbursement rates can have significant financial implications for healthcare centers. Organizations can make more informed decisions and ensure financial sustainability by understanding these drivers and incorporating them into financial planning models.

Top forecasting methods used in Healthcare

Popular healthcare forecasting tools

Amazon Forecast

Its robust forecasting capabilities leverage machine learning algorithms, making it a versatile tool for predicting patient admission rates, disease outbreaks, and resource utilization trends.

Key features

Time series forecasting: Amazon Forecast excels in handling time-series data, allowing healthcare providers to predict patient admissions, emergency room visits, and other critical metrics with high accuracy.

Automated Machine Learning: The tool simplifies the forecasting process by automating model selection, hyperparameter tuning, and training, reducing the burden on data scientists.

Integration with AWS: Seamless integration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) enables easy scalability, ensuring that healthcare organizations can handle varying data loads.

Use cases

  • Predicting patient admission rates to optimize staffing levels.
  • Forecasting medication and medical supply requirements to prevent shortages.


Its comprehensive suite of tools caters to a broad spectrum of analytical needs, making it a valuable asset in healthcare forecasting.

Key features

Advanced statistical analysis: IBM SPSS offers various statistical techniques, including regression analysis and time-series forecasting, enabling healthcare analysts to delve deep into data patterns.

Predictive modeling: The tool facilitates the creation of predictive models, aiding healthcare organizations in anticipating patient outcomes, disease prevalence, and treatment effectiveness.

User-friendly interface: Despite its powerful capabilities, IBM SPSS boasts an intuitive interface, making it accessible to healthcare professionals with varying technical expertise.

Use cases

  • Analyzing patient demographics to forecast disease prevalence.
  • Predicting the efficacy of different treatment protocols based on historical patient data.


Data Robot streamlines the modeling process and democratizes predictive analytics, empowering organizations to leverage data-driven insights for strategic decision-making.

Key features

Automated features: DataRobot automates the feature selection and engineering process, ensuring that the most relevant variables are considered in the forecasting models.

Interpretability and explainability: The tool provides transparency into model predictions, crucial in healthcare, where decisions can have life-altering consequences. This ensures that healthcare professionals can trust and understand the forecasts generated.

Scalability: With the ability to scale across large datasets, Data Robot is well-suited for healthcare organizations dealing with vast amounts of patient data.

Use cases

  • Predicting disease progression based on patient health records.
  • Forecasting healthcare facility resource needs during public health emergencies.

Healthcare forecasting best practices

1. Implement a data-driven culture

Using robust analytics tools allows healthcare centers not only to gather data but also to gather quality data, which leads to better decision-making. Collecting and analyzing patient demographics and treatment outcomes enables healthcare providers to identify trends, allocate resources efficiently, and enhance patient care.

2. Use technology

Technology is reshaping the healthcare sector, and healthcare centers that leverage cutting-edge innovations will undoubtedly lead the pack. From telehealth solutions to advanced diagnostic tools, staying technologically updated is a surefire way to enhance patient experience and streamline operations. Integrating electronic health records (EHRs) and adopting artificial intelligence (AI) can significantly improve accuracy in diagnoses and treatment plans, ultimately boosting the quality of healthcare services.

3. Plan for patient demand

Predicting and managing patient demand will be a game-changer for healthcare centers in 2024. Implementing robust capacity planning models ensures that healthcare facilities are adequately equipped to handle varying patient loads. This involves forecasting peak times, optimizing staffing levels, and ensuring that resources are aligned with anticipated demand. 

Healthcare centers can maintain high patient satisfaction and operational efficiency by proactively planning capacity.

4. Invest in staff training

The backbone of any healthcare center is its staff. In 2024, investing in ongoing training and development programs for healthcare professionals is paramount. Ensuring that the staff is well-versed in the latest medical advancements, technologies, and patient care practices enhances the quality of service and fosters a culture of continuous improvement. Well-trained staff contributes significantly to positive patient outcomes and elevates the overall reputation of the healthcare center.

Benefits of Effective Forecasting for Healthcare Centers

Foresee peaks in resource requirements

Analyzing historical data and identifying trends helps healthcare administrators develop comprehensive strategies to allocate resources efficiently during high-demand periods, such as flu seasons or pandemics, ensuring that patient care remains top-notch without compromising operational costs.

Anticipating new equipment demands

Healthcare technology is constantly advancing, and staying ahead of the curve is essential for providing quality patient care. Through forecasting, healthcare centers can predict the need for new medical equipment, allowing for strategic budgeting and procurement planning. This proactive approach helps maintain state-of-the-art facilities, improve diagnostic capabilities, and ensure that the healthcare center is equipped to meet evolving patient needs.

Updating properties and equipment

Outdated facilities can hinder the delivery of efficient healthcare services. Forecasting gives healthcare administrators insights into when to update or renovate existing properties and equipment by predicting future demands and considering the longevity of current facilities. 

Predict and reduce staffing costs

Labor costs constitute a significant portion of a healthcare center's budget, and efficiently managing staffing is critical—effective forecasting aids in predicting fluctuations in patient volume, enabling healthcare centers to optimize staffing levels. 

Distinguishing between retained and agency staff allows healthcare administrators to make informed decisions to balance the need for flexibility to minimize costs. This approach ensures the healthcare center maintains adequate staffing levels to meet patient demands while controlling labor expenses.

Final thoughts

Each method outlined in this article provides a roadmap for healthcare centers to navigate uncertainties, leverage data-driven insights, and stay ahead -or adapt- to emerging trends. 

A combination of predictive analytics, scenario planning, trend analysis, feedback loops, and collaborative forecasting will empower healthcare centers to deliver exceptional care, meet the needs of their communities, and stay profitable in 2024 and beyond.

Optimize your healthcare workforce, resources, and operations with predictive analytics and business intelligence. Explore CCD Elevate

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