Future of American Health

Today’s webinar presented by the National Association of Corporate Directors (jointly by National and the New England chapter) and moderated by Boston-area director Ellen Zane (former CEO of Tufts Medical Center) explored the coming face of US healthcare delivery post-COVID. Although nominally focused on what corporate directors should be thinking when it comes to health care, the take-aways really were global in import. Key take-aways follow:

It is now news that is a couple of years old that the model for hospitals and care-giving organizations is moving from “fee for service” to a value care model where institutions are rated and paid based upon efficacy in creating a healthy constituency at lowest cost.

However, the expert panel held that increased reliance on technology is one of the keys to better health, and that technology comes with high up-front costs. Complaining that drug and device companies charge too much may miss the point that they enable ultimate better health at lesser per person cost.

Aside from new drugs and devices, efficiency can be delivered by remote medicine and use of AI; while these are not startling predictions at this point, there seemed to be consensus that visibly radical changes in health care delivery have begun and will accelerate. Hospitals in ten years will look very different. Health care will be delivered first on line, then at remote facilities, and to teaching hospitals only as a last resort.

Emphasis will be on better life styles and practices, keeping people away from needing care in the first instance. (I have noticed, btw, an increase in communications by email and snail mail from my own health care insurers urging regular care during COVID and inviting me to exercise, eat better and stay in touch with care providers.)

Focus for care providers must be to remove fear from the “ribbon of care”– the stream of experiences a patient has from complaint to cure — by creating predictability and efficiency; COVID is a prime experience in demonstrating the ill effects of inefficiencies in this experience.

For directors of health care provider entities, be prepared for PTSD staff impact and predicted future MD and nurse shortages affecting staffing; this is another reason to push to keep people out of care delivery in the first place. For directors of companies where their staff are patients and not care providers, directors must be involved in a total management focus on worker well-being, including ramifications of post-COVID work patterns at home which can increase depression and tension and negatively affect health.

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