Healthcare in the U.S. must change drastically in order for our country to provide better care to all Americans at less cost. But it still seems that for those in a position to enable change, there are 1,001 suggestions on how to go about it. We are a country in disagreement, with a severely fragmented approach to our own healthcare transformation. Many different models of care and payment delivery are being explored by different health systems, hospitals, and care providers across the country—from Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to patient-centered medical homes to concierge practices. And the government’s efforts to drive change continue to come under fire.
We have certainly made some progress. But, just like many efforts where there is no early consensus on the goal and the strategy to achieve it, we’re still not far from the starting line in this transformation.
The good news is that we’ve evolved from a state of collective denial several years ago to a general consensus that change does indeed need to happen. We are actively driving toward it, albeit in a thousand different ways. Many important healthcare system decisions are being made in legislative chambers, in payor or health system offices, and in physician practices around the country. For anyone connected to or working in the healthcare industry, it is both challenging and necessary to remain well versed on what is happening with providers, payors, and patients.
I cannot imagine working in a more interesting industry at a more interesting time. But, there is so much going on, it’s hard for me to keep track!
My approach to absorbing and synthesizing information is to divide it into a few key subjects of interest. My top areas of interest are these three big elephants that remain in the room of healthcare:
(1) evolving the U.S. healthcare payment structure,
(2) eliminating health disparities (especially those based on socio-economic status), and
(3) preventing medical errors.
Who Are My Favorite Sources?
Changing the Healthcare Payment Structure
Of course, the healthcare payment structure is a major sticking point, and much has been written about this. Hospitals and health systems need to effectively move from a completely fee-for-volume model to a fee-for-quality model, or more simply, from order to outcomes. High-profile examples of new fee-for-value models include ACOs and patient-centered medical homes, although there are others out there.
For news about evolving payment models, I turn to publications like Modern Healthcare, HealthLeaders, and Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), as well as more general business publications like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and the Harvard Business Review. One of my favorite authors is Forbes contributor Dan Munro, who writes about the intersection of healthcare innovation and policy. I often seek out thought leadership from Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a health economist and management consultant, blogging at HealthPopuli. Her unique background brings a fresh perspective to many healthcare issues.
Eliminating Socio-Economic Disparities
The sad reality is that the U.S. is still a country whose citizens with lower socioeconomic status receive poorer healthcare. These disparities in public health represent a challenge to all of us. There are models of care delivery and payment that will work to build a bridge over such disparities, but the industry has been slow to embrace them for a variety of reasons.
My go-to sources for public health news are some of the major players: The National Institutes of Health, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. One of my favorite thought leaders in this space—and a wonderful speaker—is Dr. Jeffrey Brenner. He is founder and executive director of the Camden (N.J.) Coalition of Healthcare Providers. His community of care providers has demonstrated that a model of cooperative care can reduce repeated emergency room visits and hospitalizations and lower care costs in one of the lowest socio-economic regions of the country.
Preventing Medical Errors
Since the landmark report To Err Is Human was published by the Institute of Medicine in 1999, we’ve scarcely moved the needle to building a safer healthcare system. That report found that more people die each year from medical errors in U.S. hospitals than from traffic accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. It shocked providers across the nation. Fifteen years later, co-author Dr. Molly Joel Coye, chief innovation officer of UCLA Health at the University of California, Los Angeles, says that while a whole field has emerged to design and test intervention, the result is not yet good enough. Dr. Coye says technology, such as apps and other tools that integrate into the EHR, is key to reducing errors. She believes, and I agree, that when clinicians and patients have the right information and easy-to-use support tools at hand, their own intrinsic motivation is a powerful force for change.
To keep abreast of the progress in reducing medical errors, I read anything and everything that Atul Gawande writes and watch videos of his speeches and various panels. He is one of the most eloquent and meaningful advocates about how to improve the U.S. healthcare system.
To stay up-to-date in the healthcare IT space, I often reference two of the big member associations: CHIME (College of Healthcare Information Management Executives) and HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society). I also love starting my day with the HIStalk blog and The Healthcare Blog (THCB), both of which are sure to be thought-provoking.
Sharing With the Healthcare Community
For all of the aforementioned areas, social media is a fantastic resource to find great content. Hootsuite is one of the first tabs I open in my browser window each morning because I learn so much from articles that appear in my LinkedIn and Twitter feeds.
Some of the handles I follow on Twitter are:
Some of the hashtags I follow on Twitter are:
I would love to hear from you. How do you stay afloat in the sea of information? What or who are your favorite sources for healthcare industry news? Do you incorporate social media into your information gathering process? Please share in the comments below.