Transforming the U.S. healthcare system may seem like a daunting task; however, there are steps that can be taken now that can help further change and transformation. Here are five things healthcare leaders and organizations can do right now:
1. Listen to patients and consumers – With the advent of the internet and social media patient and healthcare consumers have become more informed. These days the people that healthcare organizations are serving know more about what they want for their own healthcare and what they want from healthcare organizations than ever before. Healthcare organizations can start right now creating ways for patient’s voices to inform organizational practices.
2. Streamline processes using Lean and other process improvement methodologies – Why do people wait 8 hours in the ED to be seen on a Sunday? Why are physicians’ offices so backed up that patients wait an hour or more past their appointment time to be seen? Much of it has to do with inefficient processes.
3. Create collaboration between communities, healthcare organizations and public health entities – Healthcare organizations are beginning to see the real benefits to creating healthier communities. Partnerships with local communities and public health entities can create enormous benefits for both those living in the community and for the organizations involved. See my blog post Building a Healthier Community for one such example.
4. Initiate patient portals and virtual access for patients and consumers – Patients want access to their health information online. They want to be engaged in their own healthcare decision making and they want to be able to communicate with their healthcare providers when it is convenient to them. The VA has made better strides in creating a patient portal that encompasses all of these things than any other healthcare organization in the country. The VA’s MyHealtheVet while not fully functional in all areas is still on the cutting edge.
5. Invest in a workforce that is engaged – Healthcare transformation will never happen if we don’t have an engaged healthcare workforce. Many of those who work in healthcare do so because they care about caring; they care about helping people. They are driven by a sense of vocation, but too often that sense of mission and vocation is stolen by organizations that create processes and procedures that dehumanize the healthcare experience not only for patient but also for professionals.
These are just five simple suggestions of actions that healthcare leaders can take today to push healthcare transformation forward in their organizations. While these may not solve the larger problems facing our healthcare system as a whole they can certainly make a difference at the local level.