Chronic disease. Widespread addiction. EKGs on your smartwatch. An aging population, the unpredictable regulatory environment and Amazon at the door. Welcome to healthcare in America in 2019.
Everyone seems to agree that the industry faces unprecedented change, but how best to face it? That’s a topic of unending debate.
Rather than a challenge, the American Hospital Association and its members see an opportunity. It’s a once-in-a-century chance to design coordinated networks of support for patients and their families—next-generation care that will build a nation of healthier communities.
Key to our efforts are ensuring access, improving affordability and strengthening collaboration.
Access: About 90% of U.S. residents have health insurance today—with significant gains in coverage occurring over the past five years. That’s the good news, as insurance unlocks doors to care and generates better outcomes and productivity.
Now the bad news. More than 28 million Americans still lack coverage, and every day that they go without it their physical and mental health is at risk.
Caregivers around the country are passionate about improving access to health insurance for all Americans. Many already partner with advocates in their local communities, dedicating their time and talents to connect the uninsured to coverage. As a field, we must work to promote and strengthen their efforts.
At the same time, we must make essential healthcare services available in every community by protecting vital federal funding for Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the health insurance marketplaces, while establishing fair and sustainable drug pricing.
Affordability: Access to care means little if that care is unaffordable. We’re seeing a growing disparity between people who can afford coverage and those who cannot. This is compounded by attacks on the coverage gains we’ve made, as well as the skyrocketing costs of drugs.
Many American families are now deciding whether to pay for utilities or their child’s medication. Many are making unimaginable sacrifices to cover the cost of an aging parent’s care.
Hospital and health system leaders across the U.S. are tackling affordability head on—working with new and nontraditional partners to redesign care and implement operational efficiencies. But they can’t do it alone.
True affordability will require us all to think differently and act collaboratively. Every stakeholder—hospitals, physicians, drug and device companies, insurers, the government, even patients—must play a role.
The AHA has been doing its part. In 2017, we launched the Value Initiative, giving members resources and tools they need to advance affordability. We are also working closely with Congress and the Trump administration to develop new solutions, such as regulatory reform, to improve the value of care.
Collaboration: During this time of transformative change, hospitals and health systems are reinventing themselves. The AHA, through its Center for Health Innovation, is here to support healthcare leaders and governing boards as they do the heavy lifting to innovate and evolve.
At Atlantic Health System, we too are seizing opportunities to enhance the patient experience. We recently formed the Healthcare Transformation Consortium with six other New Jersey hospitals and systems. Pooling our expertise with self-funded health insurance plans, we are expanding our care network for employees and dependents while reducing out-of-pocket and administrative costs.
Experiments like this must continue and expand. As new players emerge and marketplace titans like Amazon, Apple, Walmart and Google move to make good on their promise to expand their reach in the lives of consumers to include healthcare, my hope is for less disruption and greater understanding that we are on the same side, with patients at the heart of everything we do.
Despite many changes on the horizon, one thing is certain: The time for us to lead is now. This nation’s caregivers—the millions of women and men who devote their lives to the health and well-being of others—must guide our collective efforts to create accessible, affordable and well-coordinated care.
Together, we can harness the creative force of change to build the brighter future of healthcare we all envision.