Panel: In Health Care, Change is Biggest Constant

As a Michigan State University medical student, Miguel Joaquin knows that the biggest constant in his chosen field will likely be change. He’s ready for the challenge.

“The world’s always changing and we need to change with it,” he said.

Joaquin was the junior member on the most recent Health Forum of West Michigan panel, a monthly morning meeting sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. He joined Elizabeth Murphy, vice president and chief nursing officer at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Patrick O’Hare, senior vice president and chief information officer at Spectrum Health, and Jeffrey Postlewaite, interim chief medical officer at Metro Health to discuss the evolution of health care. The purpose of the forum is to offer a venue for open discussion on health topics pertinent to the well-being of the community.

Murphy, O’Hare and Postlewaite all mentioned that indeed, future health care leaders need to be comfortable with a constantly changing and evolving system.

Change has defined the past six decades, Postlewaite explained. From the birth of managed care in the 1980s, health care costs rising at double the rate of inflation in the 1990s, and direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs and medical devices in the 2000s, the world Postlewaite came up in looks much different than Joaquin’s and his fellow students. He also mentioned recent changes such as the Affordable Care Act and the increasing number of health care system consolidations and hospital mergers as inputs driving dramatic change in a short period of time.

O’Hare said tremendous change is expected to continue and that people will need to be able to connect the dots, embrace and practice systems thinking and leverage data in order to succeed. He anticipates a greater emphasis on coordination of care efforts throughout hospital and health care systems, as well as a greater ability and need to share records. Putting consumers at the center of health care will also continue to be critically important, with technology and apps fostering a greater demand from patients looking to take their health into their own hands.

“What we’re faced with is the consumerism of health care,” O’Hare said.

Engaged and empowered staff are needed to deal with complex medical issues such as end-of-life care, advanced technology, and social determinants, Murphy said. An aging populating with more complex health conditions is driving an exponential need for health care providers, including a need for nurses that can work in ambulatory, home-based, and team-based care settings. Murphy said improving working conditions for health care providers will be critical in addressing resource shortages that could ultimately affect bedside care, an idea that Postlewaite agreed with.

“We need to take care of those who are taking care of us,” he said.

As much as things change, O’Hare said concerns over health care cost, quality and access are as valid today as they were 30 years ago, three focus areas he said health care can’t afford to ignore.

If you’re interested in future Health Forum of West Michigan events, visit their website to register. You’ll also find the presentations used by O’Hare, Murphy and Postlewaite at the most recent event. All events are free and open to the public.

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Photo credit: Donnie Ray Jones

 

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