The Future of Healthcare Depends on Who You Ask - How to Succeed in Healthcare - Part 1

Contributor: Joe Raphael, DrPH, FACLM, MBA, MA, LMFT, CHES, HAPM
To learn more about Joe, click here.

Committing to excellence means more than simply improving service, it means moving your entire organization towards the vision of a better healthcare system. The mission and vision of your organization is the ‘why,’ it is the reason we do what we do as healthcare providers. I propose that in the current system we are not paying enough attention to the ‘why,’ and the future of healthcare is at risk if we continue to focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘who.’  

What is this ‘why,’ ‘what,’ and ‘who’ business?  

The ‘why’ is providing the highest standards of care. It is often outlined in our mission and vision statements, as it embodies our truest desires for making healthcare better and giving our best to each and every patient we encounter.
We are all committed to excellence, but there’s more to it than just that. Most of us in this industry are good people with very large hearts. By defining this desire to do good, to provide the best possible care, to make healthcare truly great is what will make a real difference.
Product and service innovations, utilization inefficiencies, reimbursement models, and operational structures are the ‘whats.’ While technology, efficiency, effectiveness, quality, and innovation are important to the industry, they potentially create micro-markets that potentially distract us from our mission and vision. 

The ‘who’ are those of us that assess the unmet needs within the current healthcare system. Those who study, assess, and identify what needs to change are the ‘who’ that will help the entire industry adjust.  

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the future as “the time coming after the present time.” Those of us in this field all agree the future of healthcare is ever-changing and bigger than any one of us. It will impact our work, our roles, our government, our patients, and our children. 

If we are going to respond to the current situation and improve healthcare in the future, we need to focus on integration with prevention at the core. Healthcare strategy, innovations, and utilization all have a role; a role I am assuming most of you have read countless articles on and have varying opinions. The question becomes how to best respond to change and continue to improve.  

“We have met the enemy, and that enemy is us.” Pogo, 1949. Yes, we are the enemy — the doctors, the insurers, the providers, the government, and the patients. We are the ‘who.’ Our perception in the past has dictated that improved productivity, information management, consumer satisfaction, and delivery models were trends in need of adjustment and improvement. These adjustments are now seeing the reality of implementation.   

Many of us are asking how roles will change; how clinicians, employers, providers, insurers, and patients roles will change. Some will focus on plans of efficiency while others will focus on actions, and there will always be pressure to improve productivity in both patient care and operations.   

There will always be a fad, to make up for the changes from an agrarian society to one of easy access.  Clinical care is changing; nutrition and exercise as medicine may not have been the doctor’s job of yesterday.  But that is changing!  

There will always be micro-markets. More training and access to good providers isn’t a bad thing.  The question is how micro-markets have caused important objectives to be squeezed out. Maybe productivity would not have come to the table if we were not trying to avoid increasing costs or anticipating reduction in payments. Maybe if we were focusing on the quality of care and our true vision of healthcare, we wouldn’t be so worried about margins or financial survival. 

We are doing this now, putting decisions into practice and maintaining change. We are addressing if our original perceptions were distortions or realities, which will bring about more change. We still need to collect data, and I think we can all agree that we don’t have all the answers. But we need to continue to focus on this issue and strive for further change that makes healthcare truly great instead of simply focusing on efficiencies or effectiveness. 
We want our leaders to provide better care and better workplaces.  Fortunately, most of us do. We have the passion and self-motivation that drive us to provide quality care for our patients, improved consumer satisfaction, and efficient information management. We have to keep that desire to improve, that commitment to excellence alive to continue to improve the industry.  

So maybe we just keep creating solutions to perceived concerns. Some of us think value-based payments will revolutionize healthcare, others think standardizing records and payments will make all the difference. And they might be right. But can anyone deny the role of prevention? No. Neither the patient, the clinician, the academic, the physician, the insurer, the government nor the administrator can make that claim. However, believing that prevention is important doesn’t mean we deliver prevention clinically or operationally well. Integrating preventive care is a keystone in improving healthcare, and we should strive to achieve this goal. 
Change is about providing coordinated and seamless integrative care. Look at the number of providers Dr. David Fogel incorporated in his inner-city model published in the January 2016 issue of this publication – “Turbocharging the Triple Aim - Secret Ingredient…Love?”  Is this where medicine is going?  It is for many!  

As healthcare providers, we all agree that integrative care with a focus on prevention is important.  I may believe lifestyle medicine does just that.  You may disagree.  The bottom line is integrative preventive care is about reducing error and improving quality while improving efficiency. Gone are the days of diagnosing, treating, and prescribing. Now are the days of listening and building relationships alongside diagnosis and treatment. Now are the days of doing and sustaining; sustaining change to address the perceived value of patient care. We all need to look inward at how we reinforce prevention and integrate it into our practices. We all must evolve and respond to change.  

As shortages and unmet needs are identified in the industry, it is important to review the options. In a world where options run abundant, it is more important than ever to review and analyze those possible solutions, as they’re not always going to be viable. Change is about more than just reacting to a situation, it is about responding to the situation in the best way possible. Let us continue to remember the ‘whys’ of our industry and allow our vision and our mission to propel us into the future of healthcare. 

Contact Joe at: [email protected]