My son is graduating from the 8th grade and will enter high school next fall. It’s a major change in our household, and frankly, he’s handling it much better than I am. It’s made me think about change in general, and how difficult change can be for people. Now, consider something as complex as our healthcare system. In that scenario, change becomes an enormous challenge.
But here we are nevertheless, with our healthcare system in the midst of historic change. Much of it is driven by the Affordable Care Act, and some of it is driven by the changing demands of consumers and the growing pressures in the healthcare marketplace. Whether you love or loathe the ACA, virtually all economists and healthcare policy experts agree that change was needed to redesign our healthcare system and ensure its sustainability into the future.
In a nutshell, the changes we seek are: Improved quality of care. Healthier communities. Lower healthcare costs. It’s a pretty simple formula, but achieving it is not simple at all.
For those viewing this change from the outside, some of the differences you’ll see are a growing transition from inpatient care in a hospital to more outpatient care (part of the shift to less costly settings.) Or you’ll see hospitals working in cooperation with physician practices to coordinate care and share data regarding patient care (a move toward greater efficiency.) Or – as we’ve experienced a great deal in New Jersey – you’ll see hospitals merging and affiliating with other hospitals. That promotes sharing of resources and services, gives hospitals access to more capital and gives communities greater access to services that may not always be available from a single hospital.
What’s not as visible behind the scenes is the hard work going on within our hospitals and health systems to adjust to these changing times. Taking care of our communities 24/7/365 is difficult enough without these added pressures of monumental change. I am very impressed with the leadership within our hospitals and health systems and the unwavering focus of their staffs. With one eye on the future, they continue the daily responsibility of caring for their patients. For someone struggling with change, I think I can learn something from their excellent example.