The health system will embrace patient-centered care plans that prioritize patient wellness to cut healthcare costs.
Driving patient-centered care, patient wellness, and chronic disease prevention and management is at the center of Intermountain Healthcare’s cost-cutting strategies currently and into the future, the integrated healthcare organization’s CEO Marc Harrison, MD, said during strategic meetings leading up to the start of the fiscal year in October.
Specifically, the health system aims to become more focused on driving quality healthcare for patients, putting them on the path toward overall wellness and lower healthcare utilization.
“We have a crisis in American healthcare right now,” Harrison said, as reported in an Intermountain press release. “Healthcare is unaffordable. The existing healthcare system is oriented toward driving volume. As an industry we do too many things to too many people that they really don’t need, which hurts them economically, and sometimes physically. But Intermountain has a great history of innovation and together we can drive change.”
Healthcare, which has long been embedded in a fee-for-service tradition, has become exceedingly unaffordable for the average patient, Harrison explained, leading to poor medication adherence and limited patient access to care.
Patients live in fear that their medical costs could bankrupt them, Harrison said, and they could be right. Medical expenses are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States, he reported.
And while many healthcare organizations are working to increase the amount of charity care and philanthropic community investments it makes – Intermountain issued over $246 million in charity care last year – the industry needs to do more to drive patient-centered care.
By designing care models to prioritize patient wellness, they can improve the quality of care issued and ideally make it less costly for patients.
“We’re doing a great job with the cost of healthcare and Intermountain is as competitive and cost-effective as any large system in the United States,” Harrison explained. “But we have a long way to go and we’re going to drive this forward together. How are we going to get there? By keeping people well, by providing the most accessible and affordable care, and by creating a sustainable model.”
Intermountain already has some programs underway, including ones that offer patients access to lower-cost medications and generics and others that target the social determinants of health, primarily housing, food access, transportation, and employment.
The health system is also integrating behavioral health and primary care, while also pushing for more team-based primary care design.
Ultimately, this type of programming has made sense for Intermountain, which acknowledges that as a large integrated health system it has the unique financial resources to carry out these patient-centered endeavors. But at the end of the day, there will be a return on investment when the focus is on keeping patients well as opposed to issuing episodic, acute care.
Intermountain plans to continue those patient-centered efforts alongside its health insurance plan, SelectHealth. The two plan to educate patients about lower-cost care settings, encouraging them to utilize urgent care instead of the emergency department where appropriate.
Cuts in annual rate increases, lower individual premiums, and financial assistance programs also aim to make healthcare more affordable, and therefore more accessible for patients. Specifically, Intermountain plans to make it easier and more affordable for patients to access basic preventive care so they will not have to access more costly episodic care in the future.
This does not mean that Intermountain will lose focus of the emergency episodic care it currently provides, Harrison added. This type of treatment will still be integral for serving its patients. However, the health system sees an imperative to promote overall patient wellness and patient-centered care.
“We’ll still focus on helping people when they’re in a car accident, have a heart attack, or get cancer,” Harrison noted. “But we have the opportunity to do that in conjunction with a ‘keep people well’ system. We’re still going to have great trauma programs, great heart surgery programs, great cancer care programs, and great neuro ICUs, but won’t it be terrific if we can actually keep people out of some of those places? And have them stay as close to home as possible in the least restrictive environment?”
Similarly, Harrison confirmed that Intermountain is still in a good financial position, saying that these changes are not the result of a poor earnings year.
“Intermountain, in a really tough environment, is really doing well,” Harrison concluded. “Our quality and safety have never been better. Our patient experience is on the rise. At a time when a lot of other health systems are struggling economically, we’re strong. But we need to continually innovate and change to remain a model healthcare system. If not us, who? If not now, when?”
Date: September 06, 2019
Source: Patient Engagement Hit