Dr. Miraglia is the Chief Medical Officer at hc1.com
Any patient, provider, or health administrator will tell you that the healthcare industry is facing way more than seven issues these days. But it was hard to resist using the title of one of my favorite westerns of all time, the Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen 1960 classic. So let’s focus on these seven critical issues and agree that the list is incomplete.
The following is a thought-provoking list of challenges that will be faced by all of us who in some way contribute to this unavoidable human experience we each face again and again in our lives:
1. Let's face it - the way healthcare is delivered today will change. How much and how fast remains to be seen, but change is inevitable. Therefore, we need to position ourselves to deal with those changes, whether organizationally and technologically, by preparing for new workflows and protocols. We must confront these changes mentally and emotionally, confronting new attitudes and values as the population grows and ages.
2. Few would disagree that data, all kinds of data, are critical to improving healthcare. And while new ways to generate more data are likely just around the corner, we need to focus on all of the untapped data currently trapped in the many disparate systems and strewn throughout the healthcare landscape. So let’s find it, assimilate it, evaluate it, and use it.
3. Engaging people, even before they become patients, is critical to the success of hospitals and health systems everywhere. If providers hope to attract and retain patients for the long term (and hopefully for life), they will need to be better at identifying them, reaching out to them, and satisfying them at every step of the journey. The health systems that are successful at this strategy will be the ones still standing in the future.
4. Chronic illness and wellness, two sides of the same coin, will continue to drive the need for better, more comprehensive patient engagement. The amount of health related data we accumulate for each individual, including their predisposition for disease, will directly impact their health and wellness. For example, identifying people at an early stage who are pre-diabetic and assisting them to change their lifestyle in ways that slow or prevent the onset of life-threatening conditions will be crucial to the well being of millions of individuals. And this is just one example – there are many more.
5. Healthcare, as I mentioned above, is a human experience and as such should be delivered in a way that can be both personalized and enhanced in a number of ways. Helping patients to navigate the incredibly complicated waters of the health system by engaging them early and often will be necessary to keep them from losing them to competing hospitals or health systems, much in the way that some of us prefer Hilton to Marriott.
6. The importance of engaging the families of patients across the entire care journey cannot be over-stated. In fact, in many instances the patient’s caregiver will be key to the treatment protocol prescribed and therefore to the patient’s ultimate recovery or continued wellness.
7. Positive outcomes, which we’ll continue to hear mentioned often for the foreseeable future, will continue to be redefined. As healthcare shifts from volume to value, the ultimate goal will be keeping people healthy and out of the hospital. When the need arises, the delivery of care must be accessible, efficient, and cost-effective, with a touch of personalization.
These are just a few of the issues facing healthcare today that are likely to extend into tomorrow. However, if we can begin to make progress in just these areas, we may be able to ride off into the sunset one day satisfied with a job well done.
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