Managing a health care system has never been so challenging. Any given year brings concerns about increased costs for providing quality care and the possibility of needing to develop new pricing structures or reallocating already stretched resources. But 2020 was anything but typical, which means the entire health care industry will continue to feel the impact well beyond the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine. Annual budgets will somehow need to reconcile not only with the devastating impact of the pandemic, but also contend with legislative changes made by the Trump administration, as well as those that will most certainly be made by the incoming administration.
Some systems won’t survive. Those that do will need to reevaluate how to best meet the many demands of patients, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, insurance companies and the government. President-elect Joe Biden is sure to do all he can to support the Affordable Care Act, whose initial implementation had mixed results for hospitals. This makes it all the more imperative for health care systems to take a good look at their pain points to better determine how their most compelling needs can be met.
Among key areas that should be considered are an enhanced customer experience and a more comprehensive view of patient health and wellness. The importance of the “customer experience” — the way patients view their health care experience based on firsthand and online experiences — has grown steadily in recent years and is increasingly becoming an indicator of success.
Achieving high customer experience rankings may require a change in how patients’ health issues are addressed; that is, going beyond their immediate medical issues and considering personal and environmental factors that might impact overall patient wellness. Recognizing and being able to address this broader perspective links to customer experience by being able to provide treatment and guidance specific to individual needs.
One way to do this is by offering a range of services within the same system. For example, an in-house weight loss center allows patients to be referred by their primary care physician to a customized program specific to their weight loss goals. Similarly, orthopedic patients who would benefit from pre-surgical weight loss would benefit from an all-inclusive network to visit their physician, weight loss center and participate in rehabilitation. All their medical records and information is accessible to the relevant parties, allowing seamless consultation to ensure appropriate treatment throughout. Importantly, this team approach not only goes a long way to unified care and customer satisfaction, but the convenience and ease of use of medically prescribed programs are appealing and serve as motivation to continue with the program.
The true devastation of COVID-19, both on patients and health care systems, remains to be seen. Fortunately, there are new and innovative methods to provide quality care and service, while retaining revenue streams in house. Treating other widespread diseases, such as obesity, offer the opportunity for economic and physical health benefits, while simultaneously creating a positive customer experience.