I attended the 3rd Annual Research Symposium on Health Care hosted by The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. It was the first one that I have attended, and it was an amazing conference in terms of attendees, speakers, and content.
One of the key professors behind this conference is Reuben R. McDaniel, Jr., the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Regents Chair in Health Care Management. With this long title comes a long career. Dr. McDaniel was recognized for serving students at The University of Texas at Austin for 40 years. Although I went to the McCombs School of Business and heard favorable things about Dr. McDaniel, I never took one of his classes. After hearing the glowing remarks from past students, I began to feel like I missed something.
Through this conference, I am glad I had a small opportunity to gain a glimpse into his insights and calls to action for us all. Dr. McDaniel added his thoughts after several of the main speakers. After one speaker, he made a statement similar to the following:
“We not only need to figure out how to fix our current health care system, but we also need to build the health care system we need for the future.”
In other words, the “fixes” are not good enough to get us to where we need to be in terms of delivering high quality care in a cost-effective, sustainable manner.
This simple statement is really the challenge or conundrum that we face. It spurred several thoughts.
What are we really building today?
Today, we are building an organization-centric model. It is about the physician, the hospital, and the Health Information Exchange (HIE). It is all about organizations and their systems. The stark reality is we are building a health care system we should have had 10 years ago.
The first step being taken is to get patient data from paper to electronic. The second step is to enable the electronic exchange of this data as well as to measure the quality of care provided. Simply stated, but the steps occurring now are very time-intensive and expensive.
More than these technologies and systems, monumental cultural changes are required, from physicians to patients and everyone in between. Due to the system changes, workflows need to change as well, which means physicians, nurses, clinicians, etc. will need to change, to a degree, how they do their work of delivering care.
What do we really need to build for the future?
We need to build is a patient-centric model. It is about us – our data, our care, and our conversations with physicians and our care community. Although data within the organizations still need to be in an electronic, exchangeable format, the model would shift to where we would decide who receives what data. We, the people-patients, are the central repository of our data.
With the new applications appearing for mobile devices, we can now track our health more easily, from heart rates to calories to sugar intake, etc. I believe this trend can start a revolution for people to better engage and manage their own daily health. With healthier ways, our well-being is enhanced while health costs can be reduced.
Together – owning our health data and engaging our personal care at our fingertips – a significant shift can occur to create the health care system we need for the future.
Much needs to be done to enable this change:
- Better privacy and security around the applications and the communication of the data
- Improved health literacy for citizens – young and old, rich and poor
- Enhanced physician and clinician training on engaging patients in conversations during visits and beyond
- Care and payment model shifts to address the changes
I am not saying it is easy to do these things, but this is a beginning of what is required to answer the challenge of what we really should be building for the future.
We should embrace Dr. McDaniel’s call to action. It is what we need to do to more than fix the current system – it is what we need to do to build the right system for the future.