The following is a guest post by Margaret Pearl.
“Health care reform” is a topic discussed daily across the nation. Hospital CEOs and pharmaceutical representatives are discussing it. Patients and providers are discussing it. The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (commonly called “Obamacare”) promises sweeping changes that will affect every aspect of the health care industry. In particular, hospital CEOs and administrators are charged with complying with new health care reform mandates while continuing to provide top-quality services. There are several ways the new health care reform laws affect hospital leadership practices.
The Importance of Health Care Administration
One of the most visible byproducts of Obamacare’s passage has been the new found need for professionals in the field of health care administration. Schools are introducing new advanced degree tracks, such as a masters degree in health care administration and management, that prepare students to ease the transition from old health care standards to the new. Graduates are finding more opportunities to put their skills to work in a hospital setting.
From Marketing to Education
Hospital CEOs and senior staff are charged with adopting a patient-centric focus aligning with the new health care act’s preventative-care focus. No longer can hospitals get away with marketing such-and-so services on a product-by-product basis. Rather, the hospitals that successfully complete the transition must showcase their dedication to ongoing patient education. The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act promises to provide insurance access to an estimated 35 million people who currently are uninsured — promising a rapid increase in the number of patients who seek medical care. Educating patients about the health care system under Obamacare works will ease wait times and potentially ease the burden on physicians as patients feel empowered to take better preventative care of themselves.
Keep Services Local
There is no question the phenomenon called “medical tourism” is here to stay. Medical tourism refers to the practice of Americans pricing medical services in different cities and different countries to choose the lowest bidder. Hospitals could lose patients to this practice if they do not keep an eye on the costs of procedures, supplies and services.
Community Involvement Is Crucial
The successful hospital under Obamacare must be prepared to make intra- and inter-organizational communications a priority. For instance, cost-cutting measures may require looking for new and innovative partnerships and cross-disciplinary collaborations while ensuring that hospital staff is meeting expectations and patients are happy and well cared for. This is a tall order for even the most efficient, forward-thinking hospital, but now it is a must. As well, communications encompass not just staff oversight, patient care and community health education, but the hospital’s presence and role in the community. Forging alliances with local political leaders and government workers, lending institutions and nonprofits, places of worship and educational institutions can solidify the hospital’s place as a trusted, needed and valued part of the local community.
Emphasis on Education for All
Because implementing Obamacare is a first for hospital CEOs and patients alike, many CEOs and senior staff are going back to the classroom to assimilate information necessary to make the transition successfully. Some CEOs are seeking mentors while others are taking executive education seminars and others are paying for senior staff to return for specialized degrees in health care administration, Web marketing (including mobile applications and health care technology) and other relevant coursework. Health care education isn’t just for patients anymore as hospitals need to adapt to reforms quickly in a changing business market.
While the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act has as its long-term goal a better standard of health care for more Americans, for the immediate future the ripple effect is likely to cause delays or disruption of services. For hospital CEOs particularly, the more proactive they are in gaining the necessary education and technology to streamline processes, cut costs and provide competitive services, the more successful they will be.
About the Author: Margaret Pearl holds a master’s degree in health care administration. After graduating, she joined the staff of a mid-sized hospital. Her role encompasses both staff and patient relations.