Hospitals redesigning care delivery to best serve changing needs of their communities
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.
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Rick Pollack is president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.