All of this has established the foundation for the next generation of transition. What will it look like?
Efficient, Value-Based Approaches
The clinical gains we have made in healthcare are associated with tremendous costs for specialized equipment and services. By combining in some fashion, rather than duplicating, these resources, hospitals can continue to provide patients with the most promising advances in treatment. As a result, more hospitals are part of health systems that share multiple resources in order to deliver the best care with the best value. More hospitals employ physicians and other clinicians. And this trend will accelerate.
Every hospital will need to determine the path that makes the best sense for itself and its community. Some hospitals will form strategic alliances with other healthcare providers, merging with or acquiring them to offer patients the best they have to offer. Expect to see more hospitals develop a health insurance function and still more to branch out into areas such as behavioral health, home health, or post-acute, long-term, or ambulatory care. Other hospitals will choose the opposite route—specialization in a single area where they can become a high-performing provider of essential services. Examples are children’s hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
No matter which route your hospital takes, expect to see it become increasingly involved in efforts to improve the health of the community it serves. Hospitals will define themselves less by the walls of their buildings and more by the health of their communities. They will actively seek the perspectives of patients and families on how they operate.
New Ideas Welcome
We have an aging population and a growing number of people of all ages with chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma. There’s a lot of room for improvement that will come about by engaging people in the prevention and management of chronic conditions and the employment of new technologies like telehealth. Some 40% of premature deaths stem from unhealthy behavior. By finding effective ways to help people stay healthy, hospitals can have a huge impact in controlling the growth of healthcare spending. Hospitals will also be working to engage patients and families in making decisions about treating advanced illness, including end-of-life care.
Health information technology and electronic health records, done right, will provide hospitals with new ways to improve the quality of care. With better information, we don’t have to guess. We are collecting, analyzing, and applying information—and transforming it into knowledge about what works, and what doesn’t, for patients. For example, by analyzing race, ethnicity, and language preference data, hospitals can address disparities in outcomes for certain populations. This adjustment is critical at a time when communities are changing and hospitals must change to reflect their needs. Better use of information will also allow hospitals to develop and share more evidence-based practices.
In short, hospitals will undergo nothing short of reformation in the years ahead. The demands are daunting, the excitement is contagious, and the commitment to communities is immense.
It has been a tremendous privilege to spend my career with the women and men of America’s hospitals, good people who are willing and able to do whatever it takes to deliver the highest quality care to the people who rely upon them.
Richard J. Umbdenstock became president and CEO of the American Hospital Association (AHA) on Jan. 1, 2007. Previously, he was the elected AHA Board Chair in 2006. The AHA leads, represents, and serves more than 5,000 member hospitals, health systems, and other healthcare organizations, along with 43,000 individual members.