The ideal healthcare of our dreams is far from where we are right now. A healthcare system where patients and their families don’t have to worry about being unassisted, where providers perform their duties with ease. A system where clinically vital information about patients is accessible to providers and patients alike, where patients are tended to even after their discharge. An infrastructure where the system is marked with progressive innovation and is driven towards making healthcare a birthright, extending to each and every citizen.
The healthcare we have today is fragmented. Americans often don’t get the care they need even when the U.S. spends a lion’s share of its economy on health care; preventive care needs a lot more exploration and implementation, and chronic diseases claim about 7 out of every 10 deaths in the States. Lack of coordination of care for patients, entities working independently with divided responsibilities and underutilization of technology make up the underlying hitch that is posing as a roadblock.
The Ideal Healthcare and How Far Along are We
My vision of an ideal healthcare is a system that is noble, abstract, and achievable and fortunately, we are progressing towards it. An ideal healthcare system would have:
- Patients are the primary focus
Making patients a priority of the healthcare system is not an old idea, and the healthcare industry is advancing toward this notion. This thought is not as much about patient engagement as it is about making all the developments and innovations centered around patients. Patients or their families should be aware of all the procedures done or are about to come and they should be a part of important decision making.
An increase in the number of hospitals that allow patients to view and analyze their health information from 10% in 2013 to 69% in 2015, CMS assigning 25% weight in Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program and encouraging efforts in the field of patient-centric technological advancements are a remarkable stride towards the goal of ideal healthcare.
- Strengthening information flow
Information flow can have different faces. We need 100% interoperability between value-focused organizations which can go as far as improving on crucial quality metrics. For instance, readmission rate in the U.S. is astonishingly high: a significant portion of readmissions occur within first 15 days of discharge and having relevant information will not only be convenient in treatment but may also avoid a return trip to emergency rooms.
We need accurate communication of information about health care prices and make them transparent. Patients today are capable of making their decisions, and we need to encourage that.
- Innovation-driven healthcare with aim to reduce costs
In recent times, the world has witnessed spectacular leaps in technology associated with healthcare. But there was a simultaneous exponential increase in costs. In order to achieve enhanced and affordable healthcare, the need of the hour is to make healthcare exclusive with technology and health care oriented developments.
Along with that, there is a need to incentivize providers that innovate and create impact at population scale, so that everyone puts in their charged efforts for ground-breaking revelations.
- Understanding that health insurance does not equal health care
For people who measure the strength of U.S. healthcare by the number of people insured, it is of utmost importance to understand that availability of health insurance is just one determinant and not an indication of health. We have to modify our evaluation: monitoring the health of people and the effects of several factors and not on what procedures we undertake to ensure that.
Moreover, the health insurance people have access to is only partly insurance, and mostly a pre-payment for services. This leads to huge gaps in administrative costs for just routine procedures. Concentrating on how service is being delivered and its quality and shifting our focus from volume to value is the matter of substance.
- Affordable and equitable healthcare
The cost of healthcare keeps increasing, and the results are hardly in line with the goals. U.S. spends 17.1% of its GDP on maintaining and advancing its healthcare, but the outcomes just paint an alarming picture. True, the healthcare system in the country is complex and is ever-changing, but it is crucial that we work on improving the standards. To receive quality, affordable healthcare is every citizen’s right. Although there have been several reforms in healthcare policies and many efforts are underway to realize this goal, we still have a long way ahead of us. Moving in the right direction combined with dedicated reforms will lead us to the day where affordability and equitability in healthcare aren’t far-fetched.
The Road Ahead
We dream of what we believe is possible. The healthcare system envisioned is definitely achievable and having said that, our actions from now on need to be goal-oriented.
This idea calls for fully- coordinated networks of healthcare providers, integration of care delivery systems and group practitioners to individual physicians, everyone coming together with a single aim: to deliver quality health care. Although there are several approaches, one that is consistent with the masses is formation of value-focused organizations that intend to deliver better quality with great efficiency.
As for how the government and governing bodies can close in on this gap, I believe that no single policy will fix the system. Healthcare requires policies that take the system forward with quality and affordability as the top-most priority.
Where we are headed, fragmented and patchy coordination in the healthcare system will just hold us back. To achieve the healthcare of our dreams, we need to move away from a system where entities work independently, and towards creating an organized, concrete system which is accountable, affordable and equitable.
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