With the recent health care reform, the industry is on the critical path of change. What are the reasons behind this change initiative? Health care cost containment and enhancement of quality of care are two of the most cited reasons by the literature. According to many researches, health care cost is on a fast track of rising in the last decade. One would ask the ‘obvious question,’ “Why is cost is on the rise when technology advance in medical care improves?”
Let’s take the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) initiative for an example. While the benefits of EHRs implementation across the health care industry have been proven by many researches, the adoption rate of EHRs has been very slow. The recent financial incentive by the government has fueled a short-lived energy in health care organizations toward implementing EHRs, but failed to connecting and integrating all parties involved in a health care transitions: consumers, providers, and payers. Within each of these entities, there are many factors that need to be further examined and solved within their particular settings. For instance, consumers of health care can be divided into three distinct categories: privately insured, government-funded programs (medicare, medicaid, etc.), and uninsured. Any fix that brings positive benefits to consumers in one category most likely exerts unfavorable results on those in other categories. As such, a one-size-fit-all solution to health care improvement may be just another ‘mission impossible’ quest.
Despite the cost factor, one can question the quality of health care services. This question is easily asked but difficult to answer. Similar to the argument above, each health care party involved in a transaction can perceive the level of quality differently. For example, after an office visit, a patient is disappointed by not getting the drugs she feels she should be prescribed, whereas the doctor believes to have helped the patient for not inking a wrong dose of pain medication that may get the patient addicted. Most, if not all, health care organizations adopt some types of patient satisfaction survey to gauge the level of service they deliver. However, the validity of these surveys can be subjective based on the patients’ perception and not how the service is medically judged. Therefore, the answer to the quality of health care question is as much difficult as the cost factor when the scope of the answer spans too widely. The scope factor presents a challenging problem for any change initiatives that attempt to solve health care issues across a wide horizontal spectrum.
With the above general assessment, health care leadership should take a closer look at any improvement plans and examine the impact on all parties involved. Acknowledging the ‘give’ and ‘take’ in a change plan will help health care leaders to clearly predict the outcomes of the plan. If at all possible, be honest to the people who are affected by the change and provide comprehensive education and communication programs so that everyone understands the main goals. Even when one may not ripe the benefits of the change, he or she may still support the change for a greater good.