Healthcare future involves greater patient engagement, innovation and partnerships

What does the future hold for hospitals and healthcare? Patient engagement, better mental health services, partnering with pharmacies, innovation and different reimbursement models, according to a panel discussion at Wednesday's Health Care Forum 2014, sponsored by The Economist.

Organizations continue to seek ways to better engage patients. But the key involves finding the right approach to reach the individuals who fail with their treatments and aren't taking advantage of the best services healthcare has to offer, said Tim Murphy, chief executive of Beacon Health Strategies and former secretary of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

"Engaging individuals in their healthcare is not an easy thing. Many individuals are unstable from a social perspective, their housing, jobs, family unit…If an individual is not a partner with you, they will find a solution in an ER or in an unnecessary patient stay," he said.

One problem is that mental health is often not included in these patient engagment and empowerment discussions and as a result, many people are marginalized from healthcare, according to Kim DiBella-Farber, chief operating officer and director of quality and operations for the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut.  She believes that care coordinators and case managers at the local level are essential to breaking down these barriers so that people will feel safe to seek treatment.

Pharmacists will also play a bigger role in the future. Chronically ill patients may visit their doctors a couple of times a year but they go into a pharmacy several times a month, often with questions for the pharmacists, said Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy and executive vice president of CVS Health. One recent step the company took to show the public that it truly was invested in their customers' health was to get rid of tobacco products in its 7,700 stores. Although it was a difficult decision because it means the loss of  $2 billion in annual sales, it was a necessary step as the company becomes more invested in healthcare, she said.

Healthcare must also continue to seek innovative ways to produce better outcomes, but not at the expense of high costs, panelists said. Innovation is what put Boston Children's Hospital on the map, said Sandra Fenwick, president and chief executive officer, and what ensures patients and their families continue to choose the organization for care. "Good is not good enough. If we don't have an answer, we need to find an answer. How do we use technology to advance care of kids? How do we drive value equation? For us it's not simple quality over cost.  It means delivering on quality every time for every patient," she said.

And ultimately, achieving many of these goals will involve different reimbursement models, panelists said. The movement from fee-for-service to paying doctors based on the total outcome of their patients will create a different dynamic in the industry.  And one that ensures better outcomes.

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