August Calhoun

The future of health care: becoming strategic partners

August 30, 2016
By August Calhoun

Health care organizations are challenged with staying financially viable while improving patient care in what has become a rapidly changing regulatory and reimbursement environment. To accomplish this delicate task, health care providers must reshape their operations to deliver cost-competitive services that improve patient outcomes and yield sustainable growth.

Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an aggressive plan to link 30 percent of fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare payments to alternative business models — including accountable care organizations (ACOs) and bundled payment programs — by the end of 2016, with a goal of 50 percent by 2018. This HHS plan further contributes to the seismic shift from an FFS model to value-based payments within the health care sector.

Among commercial health plans, 40 percent of payments to physicians and hospitals are designed to incent quality improvement and waste reduction. This is a rapidly growing trend from 2013, when only 11 percent of payments in the commercial sector were tied to value.

How can service organizations help customers manage these changes? Health care providers want their service providers to function as strategic partners that offer risk-sharing partnerships that can support the redesign of care processes, reduce capital expenses and navigate the shifting landscape. Historically, service providers offered product-related or point-of-care services and introduced innovations in focused areas.

The new opportunity is to offer a broader portfolio of value-added services. This portfolio can include enterprise-wide offerings such as workflow, data and analytics, consulting, managed departmental services and tools that strive to improve clinical and operational results. These services must provide clear value and deliver fast results, as well as be highly flexible to meet specific client needs.

Leveraging information is critical in this journey. Digitalization — the compilation of data to help providers make informed decisions about care delivery — can be applied at every level in a health care enterprise, from initial point of care to managing departments more effectively.

Service providers can help health care organizations generate high-quality information needed to drive care decisions. Smart systems not only ensure that data is generated, aggregated and analyzed, but also that it is presented in the clinical or operational context in order to be actionable.

Technological advancements help physicians provide better patient care through improved scan quality, earlier disease detection and more accurate diagnosis. Health care organizations will look to service providers to determine how technology and data analytics can help drive clinical quality and efficiency while maximizing patient satisfaction.

At an enterprise level, information about all devices, workflow, throughput and optimization of technical and operational parameters can be assessed and analyzed for continuous improvement, driving better efficiencies to inform the best care and operational decisions. A modern approach to enterprise data management plays the ultimate role in driving this transformation by integrating high quality information into the entire clinical and operational workflow.

Managing complex data is a challenge for providers that balance multiple priorities. Many hospitals and laboratories lack the appropriate tools and capabilities needed to turn clinical and operational data into useful, actionable insights. Service providers that offer digital services to collect clinical, financial and operational data from across the enterprise and apply actionable analytics to improve efficiency and patient care will be the partners of choice for health care providers.

Used properly, analytics will enable better work and treatment protocols, establish procedural consistency and drive broad-based, high-quality outcomes. Service providers must partner with health care providers and laboratories, providing data and insights to help them achieve efficiencies, protect operational and financial health, and ultimately, deliver better quality patient care. This is our shared goal.

About the author: August Calhoun, Ph.D., is senior vice president of North America Services at Siemens Healthineers.