Hospitals Overcome Obstacles to Provide Care
There’s no getting around it, health care is expensive.
Though health care costs have been growing more slowly this year, some health care consumers (especially those with employer-sponsored insurance) are already feeling the effects — an impact that will be felt by hospitals. If your organization is already struggling to keep patients in the face of rising costs, you need a strategy to overcome new obstacles.
Here’s a list of some significant challenges and potential solutions you may be able to implement in this arena:
1. Surviving reimbursement cuts
Finding ways to successfully survive funding cuts is always a struggle, no matter what type of hospital you run, but maintaining high standards while dealing with heavy financial burdens can be especially difficult when a majority of your patients are on Medicare.
Specialization is one way to provide financial stability. Organizations can also be designed specifically for the population in its competitive geography, much like retailers do, based on demographics, socioeconomics, and other factors such as health condition incidence. If your institution supports certain specialized medical practices, make sure your market research and promotion are complimentary to them in order to derive maximum benefit from your resources.
2. Physician availability
Scant supply and great demand will strain hospitals nationwide.
Although the fervor about primary care has died down somewhat — two years ago the Association of American Medical Colleges was predicting that physician shortages would exceed 130,000 in the next decade — there are still fears that the influx of newly insureds will over tax the health care system.
Just as there will be a shortage of primary care physicians, specialists will also face higher demand, according to the study, as the number of cardiology, rheumatology, neurology and urology office visits is expected to increase by about 15 to 20 percent.
3. Access to care
As recent studies have shown, the US hasn’t been performing well when it comes to the access and affordability of health care.
In VA hospitals, in particular, there is often a far greater lack of available services than at other hospitals. J. David Cox is national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, representing nurses and support staff. He notes that at VA hospitals, primary care doctors are supposed to be assigned 1,200 patients each, but that many now treat 2,000 patients. The pay for VA physicians is much lower than that of private physicians making these jobs less than attractive to many.
Separately, reimbursement for patients enrolled on the Exchanges is generally just above Medicare reimbursement rates, which may be below fully allocated costs. Many providers are not accepting new patients with suboptimal coverage, which means underserved patients could still go without access to care, even if they now have access to some form of health insurance coverage.
The American Hospital Association cites patient (and their family) engagement as a major barrier to health care reform, which is no surprise considering the one-size-fits all approach many providers take in communication with patients. What hospitals need are target strategies.
With limited time and resources, careful choices must be made in order to maximize resource use. The culture surrounding administration of professional resources can sometimes be daunting.
A dogmatic “physician knows best” approach is at odds with patient-centeredness. It also backfires with several patient psychographic types. Patients often find that interacting with health care services, especially in a hospital, is an overwhelming task. Patients often feel less empowered than they should about voicing their opinions about their health care.
There are plenty of tactics to achieve attainable goals that can be targeted to enhance the culture of health care:
- Implementing messaging that utilizes social media
- Developing communication that helps consumers improve health literacy skills
- Providing the tools patients need to enjoy more health care autonomy
- Abolishing negative cultural perception
With the right patient engagement strategies and patient-preferred approaches, providers can decrease hospitalizations, improve medication adherence, and strengthen patient engagement.
The Solution is to Keep Current and Foster Engagement
Extending interactions beyond the hospital and into the community fosters greater opportunity for resource sharing, and market research among current and prospective patients as well as an environmental assessment, are key processes in identification of external factors that hinder the effectiveness of our health care system.
Measures to ameliorate external obstacles to US hospital health care reform must be dynamic, responding cogently to cultural, geographic, technological, financial, medical and human factors as they change.