Healthcare of the Future: Access, Affordability and Equity

Stethoscope and medication

As we all know, the world has changed a lot in the last few years. We’ve seen a pandemic go from being an issue for a few people to affecting almost everyone on the planet. We’ve seen how quickly things can change, and how quickly our lives can be upended.  But what got us through was our creativity, innovation, and courage to think differently.

At a recent Portland Business Journal event ‘Health care of the Future’, CKA’s Chuck Westerholm went to hear about how the industry is growing and changing. Here are some key takeaways from the event:

Creative Thinking

During the pandemic crisis, Portland’s health systems rose to the occasion and collaborated with one another to continue to provide high quality care to its patients. By working together, they were able to achieve common goals and solve a variety of problems and complex issues which led the region to outperform our national peers in terms of coverage, outcomes, quality, and cost indicators.

Equity in Healthcare

Equity was a common topic that was touched on by each of the health organizations presenting. There is an urgency to provide access to care for all at the lowest cost, highest quality, with fair and just opportunities so that everyone can live their healthiest life. A community cannot be truly be healthy unless its marginalized or underserved populations are healthy as well.

Innovative Tools

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of hybrid care delivery as the future of medicine. It has combined the best of telehealth and in-person treatment to create a better experience for patients and providers. Telemedicine leverages the timing, the conveniences, and the benefits of face-to-face visits, while addressing geographic challenges, delivering cost efficiencies, and enhancing the physician/ patient relationship.

Expanding off telemedicine, the Synergistic Care Model is a cutting edge, regenerative treatment model, combining physical care modalities with naturopathic medicine, allowing the body to heal and restore balance from the outside in, as well as the inside out. While some patients may be able to manage their own treatment remotely or with minimal face-to-face visits, others will need more in-person support.

Mental Health

In part because of the isolation and stress that everyone experienced during the pandemic, mental health stigma has lessened, and more people are actively participating in improving their own mental health. Telemedicine is now allowing patients to have access to apps that help them find a therapist that fits their needs, goals, and budget, on their schedule. Telemedicine and reduced stigma have made mental health care more accessible, and more essential, to more people.

Staffing Shortage

The healthcare industry has a shortage of qualified personnel, and many professionals are burned out. This has led some to leave patient care and pursue careers in research, product promotion, or to take care of aging family members. Experts suggest that these vacancies won’t be filled for 4 to 6 years.  What can be done to make healthcare professions more attractive to more people?  How can organizations retain their valuable employees?  How can we maximize the effectiveness of caregivers?  These questions will be at the forefront in new facility design and operational improvements.

Rethinking Education

With 4 to 6 years expected to overcome staffing shortage, health organizations are looking into finding new ways to recruit, train, and to prevent burnout among staff. Ideas such as teaming with a school’s Drama Department to expand hands-on training in the classroom, or attracting retired nurses to return to the workforce as part-time nurse/mentors, were just two examples of creative thinking for staff shortages.

The Portland Business Journal’s event was informative and highlighted the recent successes from healthcare organizations working together to solve complex problems. While the pandemic made it clear to everyone how unprepared we all were at the beginning, we think it’s important to focus on what we all do best: collaborating with one another, innovating solutions together, and pushing ourselves forward by thinking creatively about how we use technology in new ways.