By Bob Ludwig
In a recent ceremony to install new members into the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) chapter of Upsilon Phi Delta, the honor society for academic excellence in the study of health care management and policy, the message to inductees was very clear: health care is quickly evolving and needs the talents of this new class of outstanding leaders to develop the health care system of the future.
“Today’s health care world is rapidly changing and it’s more than just margins and P and L [profits and losses],” said Norvell V. Coots, MD, president and CEO of Maryland-based Holy Cross Health, a part of Trinity Health. “Our comfort zone has been turned upside down and our world has been shaken.”
His assessment was confirmed by a recent intakeQ survey of health care administrators in which more than half of executives polled believe their operational model is in need of change and disruption. “There are disruptors everywhere who are attempting to fundamentally change everything we know and hold dear about health care,” cautioned Coots, a retired Brigadier General and Command Surgeon who ran the U.S. Army Regional Health Command Europe. “At the top of the list is consumers. Soon health care will cease to be hospital-centric and will become home-centric. It will be provided how and where and when the consumer wants it.”
In a Harvard Business Review article, Paul Merrild, senior vice president of enterprise solutions at athenahealth, wrote that the biggest U.S. health care challenges are management challenges. However, Merrild was optimistic that leadership is poised to take on this challenge. In a survey of more than 150 executives who represented a wide swath of the health care industry, including physician practices, medical staffing agencies and health systems, Merrild highlighted,“a remarkable portrait of courage — a willingness to abandon the status quo in favor of an uncertain path.”
Indeed, Coots told the UMUC health care students, health professionals need to remain central to health care and will, in fact, “need to be the ones doing the disrupting and not have the disruption done to us.”
This is happening in Maryland as new community-based programs and partnerships that are intended to produce more efficient care coordination are being developed with physicians, and will force health care administrators to put an emphasis on more care in the patient’s home before health needs become acute or chronic. These new programs, Coots believes, will allow people to live healthier lives.
Efficient coordination of care is just one area where opportunity and innovation awaits. “We are moving ever more into the life space of our patients . . . where they live their lives between their visits to our offices and hospitals; where there are new programs being developed for field triage by advanced practitioners, nurses, physicians assistants and emergency doctors performing field triage just like in a combat zone,” said Coots, adding that these new models allow health professionals to make a better determination about a patient’s destination after the 911 call goes out.
As the U.S. population ages, new services are being developed to target seniors’ needs, including senior wellness centers and specialized senior emergency departments, and practitioners are rethinking the way the health care system will be providing skilled nursing care in the medium and long-term facilities of the future.
Of course, technology is driving significant change at an astounding speed. Coots said that the ubiquitousness of smart phones and the exponential growth of wireless-connected products that we use in our everyday lives are creating opportunities to develop health and wellness programs, coaching, and case management that can be done remotely to ensure the widest and broadest access to health care coverage.
All of what Coots described in his remarks to UMUC’s newest class of Upsilon Phi Delta members is “the new frontier,” and he told those graduating with degrees in health care-related fields that they are “the pioneers” who will create that future health care system.
About the author:
Bob Ludwig is assistant vice president for media relations at University of Maryland University College. He has more than 25 years of communications experience at non-profit organizations, including George Washington University, the National Academy of Science and the Graduate Management Admission Council.
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