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2020 resolutions for health systems seeking long-term sustainability

While the beginning of a new year and decade marks a clean slate for many, health systems don’t necessarily have that luxury. Many of the challenges they’ve been struggling with remain: The rising cost of care, declining reimbursements, increasing market share competition.

During a December 2019 advisory call hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review and sponsored by Allscripts, I and several other healthcare executives discussed current industry challenges and approaches to keep pace with the rapidly changing environment. An ebook with details is available.

But in a nutshell, we discussed three resolutions health systems and providers of all types can take to set themselves for long-term success in 2020.

Resolution 1: Become a destination, get personal and double down on what works

Healthcare organizations are increasingly vulnerable to patient leakage, a situation where a significant portion of revenue is lost unnecessarily because patients either don’t follow through with recommended care or they are being referred out of network.

To correct the situation, providers must find a way to engage patients in a way that distinguishes themselves from their competitors.

“In a highly competitive, consumer-driven healthcare market, we recognize that people like a one-stop shop. They want convenient hours and the option of evening and weekend appointments, and they want innovation,” said Dr. Janelle Ali-Dinar, the women’s healthcare provider’s chief administrator. “We believe we’ve been able to actually compete very well because we’re thinking of strategies to make ourselves a destination in women’s care.”

Another strategy is to combine value, quality and consumer-driven ideas to engage patients and communicate effectively.

“If we can communicate how we care for our patients clearly and have family members understand that and value that communication, then that’s a success all by itself,” said Vincent Trac, District COO of Kindred Hospital – Ontario (California).

Resolution 2: Focus on digital without sacrificing the ‘human touch’

As the industry becomes more digitized, smaller organizations are now able to collect data for actionable insights. Rural or community-based hospitals with minimal information technology staff are now collecting much more data. Data analytics will help these organizations achieve new clinical care and financial goals.

Dr. Nabil Chehade of Cleveland-based MetroHealth oversees population health for a system that served approximately 300,000 patients in 2018. He said he believes easier dissemination of patient data across an organization can help bring patients the consumer-centric experiences they crave. MetroHealth is transitioning to make primary care a team sport, which involves a broader, more accessible network of clinicians for patients to engage with digitally.

“Younger patients want 24/7 access to services with very little lag time after a request,” Dr. Chehade said. “It’s similar to electronic banking, which is available 24/7, and the way you do that is by providing an ecosystem of caregivers for patients to engage with.”

Resolution 3: Identify patient needs and move the needle on population health

Long-term sustainability may come to organizations that find a way to make their communities healthier.

With aging patient demographics and rates of chronic illness on the rise, leading healthcare organizations are working on ways to screen for social determinants of health to inform approaches to treatment and patient engagement.

Healthier patients have better outcomes and, as value-based reimbursement models take deeper root in the industry, population health management may be key to addressing many of America’s health problems and elements of the healthcare cost crisis.

A lot of work we’re doing with our clients is to help combine disparate sets of data sources to help answer some of these questions about patient needs and social determinants of health. Whether it is data on income, zip codes, gender distribution, common languages, or things like air quality and the number of pharmacies available in the neighborhood, hospitals and health systems are working to create a body of data that can help address some of these issues.

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