Strategic Planning within a Changing Healthcare System

Dear friend,
I pray that you may prosper in every way
and be in good health physically
just as you are spiritually. (3 John 1 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

It has now been seven years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law by Barack Obama.  In 2009, just before the approval of the ACA, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) was enacted.  In the last seven years, these two policies alone have done much to reshape the way healthcare administrators operate within this industry.  With a new administration having a different philosophy, how can leaders prepare?  Below are three areas of focus that leaders can use when developing their strategic plan regardless of the changes made in Washington.

Holistic Care of Patients Rather than Strictly Allopathic

The reference to holistic care rather than strictly allopathic care shouldn’t be taken too literally in today’s terms.  The author doesn’t anticipate ER physicians being swapped out for acupuncture technicians anytime soon.  The definition of holistic care, however, refers to all the parts of the body being connected where allopathic care concerns itself with the treatment of a specific diagnosis with pharmaceutical or physical interventions.  The move towards accountable care payment systems will eventually require healthcare organizations to improve the overall health of their patients rather than simply treating a diagnosis.  A conservative next step would be for administrators to begin to brainstorm with physician leadership on how organizations can move beyond treat and cure and instead move towards increasing each patient’s overall quality of life.

Real-time Diagnostic Monitoring

The implementation of HITECH dramatically increased the use of electronic health records (EHR’s) in the US.  The transition from paper-based system to EHR’s may have unintentionally laid the foundation for the use of everyday technology being used to constantly monitor a patient’s health without them ever stepping foot into a physician’s office.  While some biometric monitoring is already being used in today’s healthcare environment, the developments of organizations like Google and Apple have dramatically increased the realm of what is possible in this field.  Healthcare organizations need to be positioning themselves for future advancements and potential revenue streams they could provide.  To prepare for this, without spending resources on a trend that has not yet begun, administrators can work to develop their IT infrastructure to one day be compatible with smartphone technology.  While many reading this are already panicking thinking of the information security risks this presents, the fact is that with patients already having access to their electronic medical records, the next step may be diagnostic information being automatically uploaded to a patient’s file.  As administrators we must prepare.

Prevention Coordinators rather than Care Plans

The use of prevention coordinators rather than care plans is actually a combination of the two previous strategic planning initiatives but, instead of focusing on the type of care provided or the information that would make such care possible, this relates to the staffing structure that may promote prevention instead of treating diagnosis.  While the IT structure within a facility may be able to support the biometric data coming in and physicians can learn to take a more holistic approach to medicine, the US currently does not have the number of physicians necessary to devote the time to ongoing patient health.  For this reason, health networks may need to create care coordinators who monitor the health of their patients when they aren’t in the office.  The nature and scope of this position would mostly likely need to vary depending on the hospital structure.  However, the licensing required to monitor a “healthy” person is much less than that of a physician.  While the patient would be under the care of the physician while in the healthcare facility, between visits their progress could be monitored by the care coordinator.

Although it is difficult to anticipate the changes that will take place in the next two to four years in the healthcare industry, a few things seem to be certain: prevention is always cheaper than treatment, government measures will always increase the requirement for quality and define what quality is, and technology will continue to change the way we live our lives.  As administrators, who have been tasked with preparing our organizations for the future, it is important that we begin the process of planning for these events sooner rather than later.

Questions for Health Administrators to Consider

  • How ready is your organization to utilize smartphone technology in regards to disease prevention?
  • If you were going to implement a Prevention Coordinator position into your organization how would you need to restructure the clinical and administrative patient process?
  • In what ways is your organization vulnerable to changes to the ACA and what can you do right now to protect your employees and your patients?
  • What impact or carryover will there be in the everyday workforce for how healthcare is monitored and administered? And what preparations need to be readied today as part of an organization’s long-term strategy?

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