On a recent getaway, I found myself walking down a hallway in Kentucky’s capitol, looking at plaques honoring important women in the state’s history.
One short biography that caught my eye was that of Mary Breckinridge, a woman of means who in 1925 founded the Frontier Nursing Service, which provided maternal and infant care, often by horseback, to people living in the state’s remote eastern counties. The importance of her work almost a century ago is evident in a 25-bed acute-care hospital named for her and home health agency in Hyden, Kentucky, and Frontier Nursing University, a school of graduate nursing and nurse-midwifery education in Versailles, Kentucky.
Breckinridge identified a need and set about addressing it. Providing healthcare in rural areas has always been difficult. Current industry trends—shaky finances, the potential elimination of inpatient services in exchange for a reimbursement boost and operating bonus, and medical school graduates’ need to make more money to pay down student loans—make the challenge harder. And the rural healthcare issue is just one of many facing the industry.
Times have certainly changed since Breckinridge’s day. Healthcare is big business, and many entities are looking to either enter the field or grow their market share.
The industry needs bold ideas from visionaries like Breckenridge focused on improving patient care, making it more accessible and lowering its cost. It also needs outspoken advocates of those measures, people like the three individuals recently named to Modern Healthcare’s Health Care Hall of Fame. Sister Carol Keehan fought for the Affordable Care Act. Dr. Herbert Pardes pushed for mental healthcare, and the late Dr. Philip Lee oversaw the implementation of the legislation that created Medicare.
Healthcare is at an inflection point, with opportunities for sector veterans, up-and-comers, and yes, outsiders, to leave an indelible mark and build a better mousetrap. For the patient, it doesn’t matter if those advancements come from health systems, insurance companies or the so-called disruptors being nervously watched by more entrenched organizations.
Unless there are some really groundbreaking developments in healthcare, none of us will be here 100 years from now. But I hope there are some “wow” moments for the members of future generations who stop to read plaques in state capitol hallways.