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Healthcare Must Take an Introspective Look at How They Meet Patient Needs

July 1, 2011

Health care spending continues to rise at a rapid rate and forcing businesses and families to cut back on operations and household expenses respectively. With the U.S. in its current economic recession and President Barack Obama's promise of addressing healthcare reform in 2009, becoming more efficient is going to be a key factor in the survival of healthcare organizations.

Healthcare as an industry must take an introspective look at how they meet patient needs along with the safety and quality of care they provide. According the National Coalition on Healthcare, experts agree that our health care system is riddled with inefficiencies, excessive administrative expenses, inflated prices, poor management, and waste. These problems significantly increase the cost of medical care and health insurance and affect the security of families.

In 2008, total national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent — two times the rate of inflation. Total spending was $2.4 trillion in 2007 or $7900 per person while total health care spending represented 17 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). U.S. health care spending is expected to increase at similar levels for the next decade reaching $4.3 trillion in 2017, or 20 percent of GDP.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that based on national surveys the primary reason people are uninsured is the high cost of health insurance coverage. Furthermore, economists have found that rising health care costs correlate to drops in health insurance coverage.

According to the Census Bureau, a person is considered uninsured if they are not covered by any type of health insurance for the entire year. In Granite County:

  • 20 percent of the population, or 567 people, had no health insurance coverage compared to 16 percent in all of Montana in 2000.
  • The percent uninsured ranked 20th - from highest to lowest - out of Montana's 56 counties.
  • 19 percent of children under the age of 18, or 130 children, had no health insurance coverage compared to 15 percent of all children in Montana.
  • The percent of children without health coverage ranked 22nd - from highest to lowest - out of Montana's 56 counties.

With the rise in the uninsured, the decrease in reimbursement and the rising cost of healthcare results in potential restructuring. However, I believe healthcare organizations, as well as any other organization can mitigate this result by taking a better look at the inefficient processes with in. Most of the time increased costs are due to processes that are determined overtime and never evaluated. Unfortunately, when they are investigated it is void of understanding the entire process. Moreover, the affects of the change is felt up and down the line - ultimately affecting patient care.

In light of the national economic trends, healthcare reform and the changes in pay for performance regulations within healthcare, LEAN tools can be a partner with facilities to view work differently by identifying potential savings of time, resources, and the elimination of errors; thereby increasing the viability of quality healthcare.

Therefore, processes (not people) must be improved - through the eyes of the patient. When these processes are understood from beginning to end, from the eyes of the patient, then we can efficiently and effectively improve satisfaction with patient and employees.