As I reflect back on 2016, I am reminded that the three healthcare absolutes—treat more patients, reduce costs, and improve outcomes—are still very much an everyday focus. However, three recurring themes that I have noticed in conjunction with the healthcare absolutes in 2016 include healthcare consumerism, care coordination, and big data.
Consumerism, leading to easier access to care, is what patients have come to expect along their healthcare journey. The consumer model creates expectations for less waiting, more efficiency, and more tailoring to one’s lifestyle. This is often accelerated by technology such as smartphones, online appointments, patient portals, and telemedicine.
The move towards consumer-focused healthcare is happening in part because patients are more economically invested in their healthcare. Because of changing health plans, specifically high-deductible plans, patients are now having to pay out of pocket more frequently, resulting in more attention being paid to health costs and quality of care.
A simple example of how to make access to healthcare easier is prescription ordering. One can now go online or use an automated phone system to reorder prescriptions. This is a basic change made with the consumer in mind to create a more convenient prescription-ordering process. This consumerism theme will continue to flourish and be a driving force behind health-system decision making into 2017.
In 2016, we saw a larger, more comprehensive move towards coordination of care. More and more frequently, we see insurers and healthcare systems work together to improve the delivery of healthcare services for patients.
Electronic medical records (EMRs) often help with care coordination as there is comprehensive electronic documentation for each patient. We have seen a move in the right direction with care coordination and EMRs; however, we still have a way to go. For example, within the Indiana University Health system one’s records may be accessible; however, if one leaves that system it may be difficult to transfer records and thus coordinate care.
Specifically, there are large opportunities in chronic disease management, such as cardiovascular illness and diabetes, for improved care coordination. There are multiple approaches to care coordination. Kaiser Permanente is an example of a health organization that manages care coordination very well. Because Kaiser Permanente is an integrated system consisting of a health plan, medical group, and hospital system, the structure lends itself to a more coordinated and efficient care delivery system. For example, there is constant phone contact to nurses for clinical guidance, electronic health record (EHR) access system wide, and appropriate and efficient patient pathways.* Overall, throughout the last year we have seen more purposeful discussions about the need for better infrastructure to support care coordination.
In healthcare, we have lots of data: EMR data, insurance record data, supply chain system data, etc. In 2016 we saw a move towards taking this data and synthesizing it. People are moving their big data towards predictive and prescriptive analytics. Predictive analytics focuses on what might happen in the future and prescriptive analytics suggests the best course of action based on data.
Analyzing big data can have an immense impact on the clinical sector of healthcare. For example, big data can help a clinician understand what happens when a specific type of therapy, device, or drug is used. As a result, better decisions can be made based on evidence.
The changes and advancements achieved by health systems in 2016 were vast. As leaders in healthcare we need to continue driving our organizations to meet the challenges of consumerism, improving care coordination, and using big data. Even in the wake of a U.S. Presidential election, the effect on these developing trends and corresponding efforts being made in healthcare is likely minimal. What will you and your system do in 2017 to further these initiatives?
* Pines J, Selevan J, McStay F, et al. Center for Health Policy at Brookings. Kaiser Permanente – California: a model for integrated care for the ill and injured. The Brookings Institution. 2015. The Richard Merkin Initiative on Payment Reform and Clinical Leadership.
David Reed is currently Vice President of Operations, Vice President of Healthcare Business Solutions for Cook Medical Incorporated. With over 30 years of life science industry expertise Dave holds an MBA from California Miramar University and serves as a member of the Indiana University Kelly School of Business Supply Chain and Global Management Academy Advisory Board.