I sometimes think that if an idea rings of plain old common sense its potential or true importance is often overlooked or missed entirely. Health care is an amazingly complex profession and business, but sometimes the side effects may be more long-lasting than the condition that is the center of attention. Here are two developments that might be undervalued, ignored or looked at in the wrong light.
Coordinated Care: A Bonanza of Good Will
If I had a nickel for every CEO who told me over the years that they never realized how confusing and daunting the health care system is until they managed the care of an elderly parent, I wouldn't be rich but I would have a very big pile of coins. A new AHA survey shows that coordinating care is a steadily growing practice. Hospitals see it as a way to cut costs, reduce readmissions, manage chronic conditions and achieve various population health management elements. All are very worthy operational and patient care goals. But a very real yet overlooked value is that it is a potential bonanza of good will. Something that no hospital can have too much of but is often in short supply.
Think about it. Many patients leave the hospital with a complex list of instructions. Even a follow-up phone call or two gives a sense of security and relieves some of the anxiety surrounding illness and vulnerability. It's reassuring to patients and families to know that there is some help out there if needed and that the continuity between caregivers and the patients continues. One reason patients tend to remain loyal to their physicians is that they have a sense of an ongoing relationship with that doctor, particularly in difficult situations. There's no downside for a hospital if a patient and his family feel that the hospital continues to be concerned with the patient's well-being after discharge. And we haven't mentioned the millions of caregivers out there who can feel exhausted and on their own.
Hospitals have long based marketing campaigns around the concept that they are caring institutions. Coordinating care beyond the acute stage is a very tangible way of proving it's more than pictures and words. Health care seems dominated by so much negativity. This word-of-mouth recommendation potentially generated by truly coordinated care is a very big upside.
Insurance Exchanges and Consumers
Everyone's attention is focused on the public exchanges but they have an older cousin standing well offstage that may be poised to outshine them. There are two types of private exchanges: one features only the products of one insurer, the other displays the products of multiple payers. Private exchanges have been around awhile and primarily used by employers who wanted to end the financial exposure for retiree health care expenses. But last year, several well-known companies began using them in place of traditional health care in-house benefits. The employee is given a certain amount of money and told to shop a selected private exchange.
While few companies have jumped, surveys say that about 80 percent are actively studying the potential of exchanges. If consumers like seeing side-by-side comparisons of plans and actually understanding what they buy, the whole insurance market could transform. Via the path of online shopping, it could happen sooner than we think.
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