Health Care Q&A: Big Changes Coming, Solutions Already Underway

Posted by: Mark Wendling, MD
Date: March 1, 2017

Q: In general, is there cause for concern about the health of most Americans?

A: In short, the answer is yes. However, we are more focused than ever on improving the nation’s health care status. Perhaps the Roman poet Virgil said it best with, “The greatest wealth is health.” In the absence of health, what does one truly have of value?

As indicated by Healthy People 2020 [by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services], each decade brings about a new set of national public health challenges and health care gaps. A subset of high priority goals within Healthy People 2020 are 26 Leading Health Indicators. Among these initiatives are the need to address clinical preventive services, including colorectal cancer screenings, hypertension, diabetes and pediatric vaccinations.

Due to the collaborative efforts toward these actionable initiatives, there has been substantial progress toward each goal. Across the 26 indicators, 53.9 percent have either met or shown improvement.* This is indicative of movement toward awareness, understanding and action to enhance the health of Americans nationwide.

Q: If you could change one thing about health care, what would it be and why?

A: There is no singular change that needs to be made. A convergence of solutions needs to occur in an ideal state, with the ultimate goal of reducing inefficiencies in the health care system without sacrificing quality. This requires consistent, reinforced communication between patients and providers. This is so important for tackling issues such as promoting preventive care, streamlining early intervention and implementing telehealth capabilities. For health care providers, it’s looking at the entire patient including social and behavioral health contributors.

Multi-constituents are embracing industry evolutions through initiatives like Choosing Wisely®, developed by the American Board of Internal Medicine along with Consumer Reports. The Choosing Wisely campaign advocates evidence-based medical practice, feeding patient/doctor conversations. One example of these principles being addressed is antibiotic resistance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of the antibiotics prescribed are not necessary or are not appropriately prescribed.

Another example of reducing inefficiency and increasing quality comes from emerging collaborations between health care systems, physicians, and health insurance providers. Through these collaborations, patient care can be coordinated more efficiently. This enables physicians to intervene at the right time, preventing unnecessary procedures and catching health care risks before they become problems.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to a business with respect to the health of its employees?

A: Partner with industry innovators that can help lead the charge toward facilitating the right care at the right time and place. A means by which current state of health can be measured, goals can be set and the ability to track movement toward those objectives is essential. Health-related data is the key. With insights provided by analysis of information across a group of people, risk stratification methodologies can be employed to direct the appropriate care interventions to meet patients where they are on the continuum of health, from wellness to the management of multiple chronic conditions.

Q: What one or two big changes in health care do you see in the next couple of years?

A: We are seeing a number of health systems offering health insurance products in collaboration with nationally known insurers. This signals a move toward encouraging patients to choose physicians based on lower cost, higher quality and convenience. Accessing health care through one health care system also allows for better coordination of care.

More entities working together aligns with the most significant change afoot in health care, which is the transition of payment mechanisms from the volume of services provided to the value of those same services. Succeeding in a value-driven environment requires care redesign across the continuum as well as increased collaboration with those who pay for health care, all while remaining focused on the unique needs of each patient.

For information on how Populytics is contributing to improved population health, contact us here.

*Healthy People 2020; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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