When I was growing up, becoming a doctor was a lofty and noble path. Children received toy stethoscopes as gifts while parents watched over them and dreamed of their future careers.
Today, the perception of the healthcare industry is considerably less optimistic. I have friends in the field who’ve considered leaving patient care altogether and shifting into research — all to avoid the negativity surrounding healthcare in the United States.
The controversial, combative, and administrative nature of our healthcare system clearly weighs heavily on those within and outside the industry. Recent research from Pew Research Center suggests that Americans are highly divided on their healthcare opinions; they agree on little more than concern over high prices. One side views healthcare as a universal human right, while the other sees it as simply another industry subject to the free-market economy.
What we’ve all lost sight of, however, is our shared vision: robust, cost-effective healthcare for the benefit of everyone involved.
The current healthcare landscape
All of us — providers, administrators, patients, the general public — could do a better job of participating transparently in the healthcare conversation. This requires shifting focus toward patient outcomes and delivering the highest-quality, most accessible care possible.
That’s the goal, but this high-level, collaborative conversation is far from our current reality. While the political war rages on, it will likely be up to providers — those in the trenches — to steer us in the right direction and ensure we properly address major issues in healthcare.
This begins with moving away from purely political discussions and giving the public a forum to voice their criticism. Communicating the importance of good outcomes might not depoliticize the argument completely, but it certainly shows the benefits of transparency in healthcare — something the general public has asked for time and again.
According to Modern Healthcare, a few hospitals across the country are pushing for greater healthcare transparency (especially regarding the cost of services), but the movement is still slow. In particular, some pharmaceutical manufacturers have come under fire for obscuring pricing models and artificially inflating the cost of certain medications. And when it comes to price transparency, nearly every state in the union has received a failing grade from the Catalyst for Payment Reform. Future forecasts don’t look much better, either.
With these roadblocks, it’s up to providers — again, those on the front line — to help us all start a more constructive conversation.
Underlining outcomes-based healthcare
Any productive conversation starts with an ultimate goal in mind. What’s the ultimate goal for healthcare, then? No matter your affiliation, it should always boil down to improving patient care.
For providers to productively engage with criticisms and grow through them, they must approach solutions with patient-focused outcomes in mind. Ideally, this leads to better care, better financial accountability, and a competitive edge for the strongest-performing hospitals. In the healthcare industry, “winning” should no longer be about profit so much as which organization produces the best patient outcomes and offers value-based care.
From this perspective, the future appears much more promising: Deloitte found that more healthcare organizations are shifting toward wellness-based care models rather than waiting for particular illnesses to take action, and early results are positive. If this trend continues, both access and affordability should rise, which will open the door to more productive conversations between providers and the general public.
Here, it’s helpful to remember that actions often speak louder than words. By pairing a frank discussion of healthcare’s shortcomings with a noticeable commitment to outcome-based wellness initiatives (rather than profit-based metrics), individuals and organizations across the healthcare industry can make their voices heard and achieve impactful results.