The challenges facing healthcare are enormous. We need to find ourselves new ways to obtain a more cost efficient yet improved healthcare system. In order to achieve this effectively, we identified five desired breakthroughs in healthcare and the organizations that cracked the code of the desired breakthroughs.
Breakthrough 1: Strengthening mutual caring and sharing
The starting point for making and keeping healthcare universally accessible is the reinvention of mutual caring and sharing. In practice, however, this is not as easy as it seems. The manner in which the system and her underlying principles, such as mutual caring and sharing, is designed often feels like a logical given. Nevertheless it is very much a product of its time and is restricted to a particular area.
Technological developments and innovation within healthcare will partially help to reduce costs. On the other hand, it will also produce new, expensive screening and treatment opportunities that cannot yet be financed for everyone. An increasing number of people who have chronic disorders and are becoming extremely old, deserve more human attention than can be made available and affordable from public funds. And thus is the need for breakthroughs to permit the system of caring and sharing to evolve with the developments in healthcare and health in general.
Breakthrough 2: Letting prevention and self-management work
People in the healthcare sector are being encouraged to undertake prevention and self-management measures. This is in contrast to a cure, which is only focused on ‘repairing what is broken’ and ‘suppressing symptoms’. There are many disorders that develop slowly, such as blood and vascular diseases and diabetes. Prevention can occur in each stage to ensure someone does not become really ill. Moreover, if an illness changes into a chronic disorder, due to ineffective prevention of the disease, the term ‘cure’ is actually not even applicable. In that case, the symptoms in particular are being treated and kept under control, in such a way that in the best-case scenario they are merely a bother, and in the worst-case scenario the patient does not die. In that regard, it should further be noted that the treatment itself and chronic care are very costly.
Knowing all this, you would expect that there are many successful prevention programs. In reality, however, more – a lot more – is invested in care during and after a disorder instead of preventively. Given the importance and the potential of prevention to keep people healthy to prevent healthcare costs, it is relevant to thoroughly investigate this further.
Breakthrough 3: Patient-centered organization of information and everyday care
It is desirable to organize care around the patient. The challenge here is in particular that there are many different persons treating the patient and other parties involved who have to find out from one another what is going on. In this extensive process, the patient is ideally in control himself/herself, has access to his/her own medical file and updates his/her own health data.
Streamlined cooperation demands greater integration of the treatment and information surrounding the patient. Aside from the integration for people who need a lot of care, there is need for accessible healthcare of a daily household type. This relates to the more simple diagnoses, repeat prescriptions and standard treatments. In that regard, opening times, the provision of service and speed – i.e. service – are the most important provided there is a good ‘squeaky wheel system’, so that referrals can be made in the event of doubt.
Breakthrough 4: Deploying services and instruments to help customers take control
Currently, a number of innovative developments are on the go that help to streamline processes; to increase accessibility to healthcare by lowering the threshold. These developments enable people to function independently (‘take control’) while keeping the healthcare system affordable.
For example, to make the entire process of selecting a service provider and scheduling appointments simpler for customers, new developments in mobile technology can be used. The mobile telephone can now serve as an instrument to pay for and insure care anytime. Furthermore, it can be used for ad hocinformation retrieval or to consult a doctor at a remote location.
Breakthrough 5: Implementing differentiation in specialized healthcare
Diagnosis centers and hospitals will remain in existence with a more regional function for acute care. Schedulable treatments where economies of scale can be realized in terms of quality and/or price will become increasingly concentrated. That applies to simple surgeries, such as laser eye procedures and hip and knee surgeries, but also to complex procedures, such as open-heart surgery.
Many patients, however, require integrated treatments which cannot be provided by a regional hospital, but which are not so complicated as to require true academic expertise. In that light, there seems to be a need for a limited number of broad-based hospitals that organize and coordinate processes efficiently for patients with various disorders.
Further, there is and always will be a need for a very select number of top academic institutes. This concerns in particular those areas that are truly knowledge-intensive. In terms of disorders, this can relate to complicated combinations of symptoms and disorders. In those situations a combination of expertise is ideal. It can also concern a very specific disorder that occurs seldom. In that case patients want to go to the expertise center specialized in this type of disorder.
This article is an excerpt from the new Dutch book “Briljante businessmodellen in de Zorg” (Brilliant Bussinessmodels in Healthcare). This book will soon be available in pdf. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in receiving one or more of the cases.