Hos­pi­tals re­design­ing care de­liv­ery to best serve chang­ing needs of their com­mu­ni­ties

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT - By Rick Pollack

Man­age­ment guru Peter Drucker has called the hos­pi­tal “the most com­plex hu­man or­ga­ni­za­tion ever de­vised.” And it’s fair to say that hos­pi­tals have more on their plates now than at any other time in the history of healthcare.

The chal­lenge that hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems face to­day is how to take these com­plex or­ga­ni­za­tions and chart the path to care for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, while con­tin­u­ing to trans­form the way we de­liver care. To do that, Amer­ica’s hos­pi­tals are on a jour­ney in con­tin­u­ing to im­prove the way healthcare is de­liv­ered in this coun­try and re­de­fine the iconic blue H.

Re­defin­ing the H means that each hos­pi­tal must con­sider which path will al­low it to best serve its chang­ing com­mu­nity. Many hos­pi­tals are find­ing new, more ef­fi­cient ways to help pa­tients with mul­ti­ple chronic con­di­tions take charge of their health and lead health­ier, more pro­duc­tive lives. Some hos­pi­tals will con­tinue to fo­cus on the crit­i­cal ser­vices pro­vided within the walls of their or­ga­ni­za­tion—trauma care, so­phis­ti­cated surgery, or di­ag­nos­tics and ther­a­pies on the cut­ting edge of sci­en­tific de­vel­op­ment.

Oth­ers will fo­cus on pop­u­la­tion health—how to im­prove the health for a spe­cific pop­u­la­tion, and pro­vide the right care, at the right time and in the right place, and elim­i­nate hav­ing the pa­tient bounce from one un­con­nected provider to the next.

They are do­ing it by ex­per­i­ment­ing with in­no­va­tive ap­proaches, and shar­ing lessons learned with oth­ers. Many will seek strate­gic part­ners as they work to re­shape and im­prove care, and fo­cus on well­ness and preven­tion.

In the new eco­nom­ics of healthcare, hos­pi­tals will be chal­lenged as never be­fore to pro­vide in­creased value to pa­tients and demon­strate that healthcare is an in­vest­ment, not just an ex­pense, to the pur­chasers of care.

Hos­pi­tals also un­der­stand—more than ever—that pa­tients con­sider them­selves con­sumers. They want hos­pi­tals to pro­vide care on de­mand, in a man­ner more con­ve­nient for them—same-day ap­point­ments, walkin care, emer­gency depart­ment fast tracks, home vis­its or house calls, pa­tient por­tals or tele­health.

Hos­pi­tals are on mul­ti­ple path­ways, and each is at a dif­fer­ent start­ing point and mov­ing at a dif­fer­ent speed, depend­ing on the com­mu­nity and mar­ket in which it op­er­ates. But all are en­gaged in mas­sive ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

Re­gard­less of which path they are trav­el­ing, hos­pi­tals share a public pol­icy agenda to en­sure that they can con­tinue to progress on this crit­i­cal jour­ney of im­prove­ment and trans­for­ma­tion.

Le­gal and reg­u­la­tory bar­ri­ers should be re­moved so healthcare providers can work to­gether more easily. Op­por­tu­ni­ties should be ex­panded for telemedicine, while cre­at­ing bet­ter stan­dards to en­sure in­ter­op­er­abil­ity of elec­tronic health records. Above all, hos­pi­tals need pre­dictable and re­li­able fund­ing from Medi­care and Med­i­caid.

This will al­low hos­pi­tals to con­tinue their crit­i­cal work—im­prov­ing qual­ity and pa­tient safety; re­duc­ing read­mis­sions; elim­i­nat­ing dis­par­i­ties and vari­a­tions in care; in­creas­ing di­ver­sity in their work­force and lead­er­ship; and find­ing new ef­fi­cien­cies to take costs out of the sys­tems.

Amer­ica’s hos­pi­tals know that the blue and white H is a sym­bol in which peo­ple be­lieve and rely on. It’s a bea­con of se­cu­rity and safety un­like any other sym­bol in our so­ci­ety. To con­tinue to meet its prom­ise, a hos­pi­tal must be more than a build­ing that pro­vides emer­gency and in­pa­tient acute-care ser­vices. It must be the gate­way to health, cov­er­age and ac­cess to care.

Robert F. Kennedy cap­tured it best when he said that “few will have the great­ness to bend history it­self, but each of us can work to change a small por­tion of the events, and in the to­tal of these acts will be writ­ten the history of this gen­er­a­tion.”

The fact is our field is on the edge of a revo­lu­tion as a re­sult of changes oc­cur­ring in science, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and care man­age­ment. Hos­pi­tals ev­ery­where are striv­ing ev­ery day to change their “small por­tion of events” in their com­mu­ni­ties, to con­tinue their mis­sion of car­ing for their pa­tients, while hav­ing a last­ing im­pact on healthcare for gen­er­a­tions to come.

In­ter­ested in sub­mit­ting a Guest Ex­pert op-ed? View guide­lines at modernhealthcare.com/op-ed. Send drafts to As­sis­tant Man­ag­ing Editor David May at dmay@modernhealthcare.com.

Rick Pollack is pres­i­dent and CEO of the Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion.

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