Healthcare is Learning from Other Industries (While Tackling Problems Uniquely Its Own)

The final blog in our series serves to summarize the ways in which healthcare can learn from the best practices / innovations of other industries, address unique trends in healthcare, and define their broader impact on the industry.

Our previous blogs describe how healthcare, a system often characterized as broken, expensive, and over-regulated, can improve by looking towards other industries.

  • Cost & Choice: How healthcare can learn from Chipotle’s ‘Cafeteria Plan’ — The food service industry’s recent changes in business model with the emergence of fast casual highlights how effective new delivery models can be at re-balancing quality and cost at the consumer’s advantage. Healthcare can take note and learn to level-set with patients, explaining that trade-offs must be made when considering service variety, price, and speed.
  • Best practices & regulation: How do we take care of the caretakers? — The physicality of manufacturing work led to numerous changes and regulations across the entire manufacturing industry; the changes serve to protect workers from immediate and cumulative bodily harm. Healthcare, in turn, can begin to create new systems to increase collaboration among nurses during physical tasks and enact rules (not loose guidelines) as to how to handle situations that can potentially result in injury.
  • Coordinating experiences: What medical teams can learn from Lollapalooza — Production companies move large objects and many individuals in the performance of putting on a show or shooting a movie. These efforts require large teams of variously skilled individuals to coordinate, monitor and accomplish the near impossible and make it look effortless.  Healthcare can also accomplish these feats by implementing weekly planning sessions, while decentralizing task management and execution so that one individual in a team does not become the bottleneck.

As much as healthcare can learn from other industries, it is also important to see that some problems are original.

Healthcare continues to evolve from a significant amount of change brought on by issues unique to the industry and demonstrate the industry’s own best practices and innovative thinking. Some of the trends that demonstrate the internal development of the healthcare industry include:

  • Population Level Prevention: Due to technological innovations in testing, care providers are increasingly attempting to determine predispositions to disease that patients may have. This focus on proactively providing care has demonstrated itself even in the day to day processes, where caretakers are now responsible for more tasks associated with collecting information from patients on their state of health. Further pushing this trend forward is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which made it mandatory for insurance companies to offer free preventative health services to consumers; these services include well visits, routine checkups, shots, and screening tests.
  • Encouraging Wellness: Furthermore, employers are taking matters into their own hands by implementing wellness programs. The ACA requires employers with over 50 employees to offer healthcare coverage for all full-time employees. For those employers who are self-funded, a healthier population of employees will reduce overall claims; thus, the incentive for the wellness initiatives. These programs reward health behaviors (e.g., fitness, weight loss, and regular preventative screenings) with prizes or reduced insurance premiums and co-payments.
  • Patient Education and Participation: Insurers are creating online portals to educate patients on their benefits and how to use them. In addition, providers are focusing on creating materials in order to help patients identify their objectives in disease management and understand the actions they need to perform to maintain a certain quality of life. These channels are helping patients become more aware of their health, thereby making them more proactive in seeking care.

What are the impacts of these changes?

The expectations of care and cost are changing.  More patients are now able to seek care more easily than just a few years ago; however, with more access has come greater responsibility in managing cost and outcomes associated with care received. This means that beyond co-pays and coinsurance, patients are being asked to understand the true costs of care not only for basic health checks, but also the costs of chronic and preventable diseases.

As a result, much more focus is being placed on preventative care, wellness, and patient education.  Healthcare has always been an industry driven by choices made by everyone except the patient. But, much like other industries, the best instigator of change is known as the “consumer.”  The major internal industry shift in healthcare is that of involvement of the individual from an inactive patient to a proactive consumer.  Such a push has provided healthcare an opportunity to do more with less, make appropriate trade-offs between quality/speed/choice, and focus on the experience.

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