Company News

Putting the ‘Care’ Back in Healthcare

January 9, 2018

Whether we’re discussing issues with healthcare policy and insurance costs, the challenge of increased demand for medical services, or the fact that physician burnout is at 54.4%, we must stay focused on the bigger mission.

That mission is to provide the best possible care to every single patient.

This necessitates we emphasize superior patient care above all else. Given the current problems, that may seem difficult. But there are solutions.

Emphasize value-based care
It’s good to be efficient. We should be utilizing the latest technology and processes.

However, we need to remember the purpose of improving efficiency in healthcare. It’s not to maximize volume and profitability. It’s to improve patient experiences and outcomes.

Thomas H. Lee, MD, and Michael E. Porter, a Harvard business professor, call for a shift to what they call a “value agenda”, one where healthcare organizations “move away from a supply-driven healthcare system organized around what physicians do and toward a patient-centered system organized around what patients need.”

The good news is lots of hospitals and facilities are making this transformation. Those that are doing it best are those who have united all stakeholders in the system — from suppliers and insurers to medical staff — under a mission of providing true value-based care.

One organization that’s done this well is Cleveland Clinic. To implement value-based care, they use a systematic approach centered around three goals: improving the patient experience of care, improving population health, and reducing healthcare costs. Their efforts have been paying off in recent years, as Cleveland Clinic has consistently ranked among America’s best hospitals (according to objective data on patient outcomes).

Make technology a partner
Technology already plays a powerful role in healthcare. Considering that we face a looming physician shortage, which could exceed 90,000 within the next decade, in addition to a greater societal need for medical services, we must be thinking of ways technology can bridge gaps where service could fall short.

For example, the aging population in the United States will create an increased need for geriatricians, physical therapists, neurologists, and other specialists. Technology can be deployed in a variety of exciting ways to fully meet the needs of senior patients by automating tasks, tracking health status, and providing insights on treatment. Even robots could combat loneliness and social isolation by having conversations and playing games with elderly folks (personal robots are indeed on their way already).

At The Allure Group, we use a patient monitoring system called EarlySense to track everything from heart and respiratory rates to movement. The technology collects data and sends it to a central display station, offering our nursing center staff key information in real time. EarlySense is said to deliver a 45% reduction in patient falls and 80% decrease in code-blue events.

By having technology assist with analysis and perform as much legwork as possible, we not only have the ability to improve patient outcomes, but also their experiences. That’s because staff will have more time to focus on the human side of care.

In this sense, if we think of new technologies, like AI and big data, as true partners to doctors, nurses, caregivers and other medical professionals, we’ll have the resources and time available to implement a holistic approach and address all the needs of our patients.

Focus on customer service
Many patients arrive with their health and lives on the line, which means staff must actively take steps to ensure their attitude benefits (not hurts) the treatment process. This is why the best doctors and nurses are those with the right combination of medical capabilities and interpersonal skills.

To improve patient care, healthcare organizations must turn their attention to customer service. Obviously, in healthcare, this is different than any other industry. Yet that’s no excuse for failing in this area, which far too many do.

For instance, Terri Cullen, an award-winning journalist, was once so surprised by the great service during a family doctor’s appointment that she wrote an article about it in the Wall Street Journal. Cullen wrote that it wasn’t that the treatment was poor beforehand. “Rather, it’s feeling that our health-care providers just don’t have time to care about my family,” she explained. The quality service Cullen received motivated her to spread the word about how important personal interactions are for healthcare patients.

So, how exactly can healthcare organizations provide great service?

Dr. James Merlino, an accomplished surgeon, describes nicely how hospitality applies to the healthcare industry. He attests that healthcare is unique because the customer isn’t always right, many times they don’t want to be a customer at all, and medical staff serve people who are often at the most vulnerable time in their lives, which necessitates honest, personal, and effective communication, especially when the news is devastating.

As Merlino says, “What we can learn from hospitality are ways in which we can better interact with our patients.” We must focus on “the big picture of personal-relationship-oriented interactions through the use of good processes and cultural alignment.”

Providing care that goes above and beyond
By emphasizing value-based care, partnering with technology, and building relationships with patients, we can improve patient outcomes and experiences. What’s required to achieve this is intelligent use of resources, a thorough strategy, and solid leadership.

In the end, if we can see the bigger picture, that lives depend on our ability to transform the way healthcare operates, we’ll be motivated to work towards this goal. We’ll be able to put the ‘care’ back in healthcare.

Categories: General