Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Future of Health Care

In April, I presented at the Four Corners MGMA Conference in Albuquerque about the future of health care in the next 10 years. I have long believed that future planning is a key to success, as the “correct future” must address the realities of the present. CHRISTUS is a very future-looking organization, and we have learned from our Futures Task Forces and future planning activities some things that I think will be helpful to blog readers as well.

I shared with the group what I consider short-term tactics to create success

• Manage and reduce labor and non-labor costs (growing “revenue line” will be almost impossible, so must focus on expense line)
• Improve patient throughput
• Better integrate physician and hospital operational improvement plans
• Renegotiate financial contracts whenever possible
• Ensure best prices/discounts for equipment, supplies, and services
• Evaluate salaries and benefit costs
• Reduce risks and monitor compliance
• Be willing to make further changes, yet unknown

• Accept uncertainty and ambiguity
• Become a quick change artist when necessary
• Commit fully to your ministry
• Behave like you’re the only owner of the business
• Hold yourself accountable for your actions and outcomes
• See yourself as a service center
• Manage your own morale, passion and optimism
• Be a fixer, not a finger-pointer
• Speed up your improvement plans
• Elevate your expectations

CHRISTUS Health’s Futures Task Force II presented 26 future facts, 3 strategic drivers, 5 strategic directions and 8 strategic enablers for CHRISTUS Health. Together, these help us glimpse at a possible health care future:
• Some diseases will be “cured” (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Cystic Fibrosis, Osteoporosis, some behavioral diagnoses, some GI cancers)
• Trauma will become the leading cause of death in people 54 years of age and younger
• Some diseases will be best treated by alternative and complementary medicine, including migraine headache and tinnitus
• Illness related to global warming will evolve
• Home health and remote monitoring become a primary care delivery tool, resulting in retail, rather than payor-orientation
• Systems move to service line organization/orientation, managed at a system level rather than regional levels with huge organizational implications
• Fully-integrated EMR and sophisticated IT networks will drive patients, physicians and payors to work together
• Innovative partnerships with payors for disease management and wellness maintenance result in major cost savings and realigned industry incentives and payment strategies
• A more innovative physician employment model which enables a sophisticated communty-based care delivery strategy
• Innovative border strategy and medical tourism fully integrated into major system offering, increasing international service offerings and fully integrating into regional and system strategies

We hope that health care reform will make the future brighter by increasing the number of insured patients, enhancing information technology, placing emphasis on wellness and prevention and encouraging physician and health system integration.

As we navigate this new reality, I encouraged the leaders at the conference to work most of all to gain buy-in to their group’s organizational vision first. Then, they may position their organizations as value-based innovators with long-term staying power. They may also do as CHRISTUS has done, and use forward-looking data and market intelligence to inform actions of today and plans for tomorrow.

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