As a PR professional who works in healthcare, I’ve followed the debate on healthcare reform quite closely. Like many of you, I’m frustrated. The problem is huge; costs are rising unsustainably but haven’t translated into better patient care, causing the Social Security Advisory Board to identify healthcare spending as “perhaps the most significant threat to the long-term economic security of workers and retirees.”
Solutions have been debated (and re-debated). Yet progress has stalled. The road to health affordability, it seems, is paved with gridlock.
Roadblocks aside, I remain hopeful. Thanks to technology, a new generation of service providers has emerged and, with it, new access to previously-unavailable data on healthcare costs, outcomes and protocols. Soon, this data will allow doctors to pinpoint the most successful treatment protocols and payors to create better, more affordable reimbursement models. Already, such data is powering consumer-based tools, which help patients calculate the out-of-pocket expenses associated with care.
As a result, I believe healthcare will change dramatically, no matter which party wins the White House in November. Communication will play a central role in this change. Among the improvements already under way:
- More transparent direct-to-consumer communication, which allows patients to better evaluate their care options and monitor their conditions more knowledgeably.
- More collaborative provider-to-provider communication, which helps clinicians identify best practices and trouble-shoot preventable mistakes.
- Better external communication, which helps pharma companies re-position themselves as end-to-end solutions providers, delivering outcomes to clinicians, payors, employers and patients.
A recent McKinsey Quarterly article titled “Biopharma in the Coming Era of ‘Connected Health’” draws a parallel between the challenges facing healthcare companies today and the computer industry’s evolution over the past 20 years. “Value shifted away from the computer industry’s physical product – hardware – to the software and services surrounding it,” notes authors Sam Marwaha, Brian Milch and Steve Savas. “IBM is the model for this transition. In 1993 … the company embraced industry change and emerged as a leader in IT services by shifting the corporate focus from manufacturing products to solving customer problems.”
As the healthcare sector continues to grapple with reform, data and communication will play a big role in repositioning industry organizations as solutions providers.
Do you believe healthcare organizations are up to the challenge?
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