Miller’s Monday Morning Message

Andrew MillerMiller's Monday Morning Message
presented by ACM Consulting Inc.

Andrew Miller on strategy, operations, life balance and everything in between

Toronto – February 27, 2012

In a recent discussion I had with some colleagues from around the world, we realized that many of the challenges we have in our healthcare systems were the same. The group represented people from both publicly and privately funded healthcare models and covered people from North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Here's what we discovered as the common healthcare challenges we all face and my thoughts on solutions:

A reactive healthcare system

Each of our healthcare systems was very reactive in the way that services were being delivered. New services would be developed only once a need had arisen, but little effort was spent trying to anticipate the future needs of patients in order to better serve them. This is most evident in the fact that governments focus on treatment of disease and other medical issues more than they focus on their prevention.
Solution: Look at different models of care and engage patients more to determine not only what they need now, but what they will need in the future.

An inefficient healthcare system

Many of the healthcare systems we discussed have old and antiquated technology platforms. In a world where the electronic transfer of health records is paramount to patient treatment, this was very surprising. Many countries have stifled innovation with medical technology. Often, strict procurement processes and a focus on lowering costs dictated the way technology was purchased. This not only stifles innovation for leading edge technologies, it also discourages some companies from even participating in the marketplace for fear of being commoditized.
Solution:  Provide different options for different types of purchases. For products and services that should not be commoditized, encourage a process of collaboration between healthcare providers and their suppliers that focuses on the best solution for the provider.

A poorly integrated system

Hospital resources are strained and performance suffers, yet the integration of varying levels of care is still done poorly. We don't always remember to address issues from the patient's perspective and once they are discharged from hospital, what support system are we providing them? The communication between family doctor and patient is often broken (the doctor speaks in terms the patient doesn't understand and the patient is afraid to ask for clarification) and patients don't know where to turn for help. The result is that they go back to the hospital, often unnecessarily.
Solution:  Governments should provide incentives for regional providers to get together to share information and make the transfer of patients and their information seamless. Think of a health authority where home care, hospital care, and clinical care was fully integrated with the patient at the centre of the model.

A complex system

Of course a subject as large as healthcare is going to be complex, but that doesn't mean it has to be unclear. There are major issues around lack of clarity of healthcare legislation, misunderstandings about how the system will be sustainable through current funding models and the issue of the aging demographic within our societies. These are important issues that politicians aren't tackling adequately enough.
Solution:  We need to look for a model where smaller specialty clinics can take some of the pressure off of hospitals. We also need to align legislation with the concept of patient-centred care, so every decision made is in the best interest of patients and the healthcare system as a whole, not just focused on lowering costs.

Since we are all facing the same issues, why are we not collaborating more? Why are we not engaging industry and patients on a global scale to help resolve these challenges and turn them into opportunities? Because we are too busy cleaning up our own backyard to see how beneficial that collaboration would be. We should be looking at initiatives that are working successfully and build on them. Only then will we see a sustainable and improving healthcare system.

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Andrew Miller
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© Andrew Miller. All rights reserved. 2012.

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