Rethink the healthcare product to cut costs

Expand the scope of healthcare to include basic life necessities and bring care to where people live to lower healthcare costs, concludes a new report from Harvard doctors published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The report takes a cue from resource-limited regions and recommends the U.S. healthcare industry change how it views what the healthcare product is and the providers who deliver it, according to WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

For instance, in Brazil, providers send low-income children home from the hospital with resources for ongoing nutrition, sanitation and psychological support, the authors note. They found that connecting patients with essential nonclinical resources like food and housing can help reduce readmission and associated costs.

However in the United States, Medicaid prohibits reimbursement for healthcare efforts related to social services, food stamps, energy assistance or housing, the report notes.

The report also recommends broadening the healthcare workforce so that doctors, nurses and social workers can spend more time doing what they're trained to do. Task shifting--or task sharing--promotes the efficient use of resources.

In resource-limited environments like Haiti, community health workers help healthcare systems by providing high-quality, low-cost services to patients in remote rural areas, and identifying undiagnosed illnesses and social needs before they become more serious and expensive to treat.

But some U.S. healthcare organizations already have started to broaden the definitions of healthcare and healthcare providers. Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid expanded its definition of the medical staff, allowing hospitals to give nonphysician practitioners privileges like other medical staff members. Nonphysician practitioners could free up physicians to work on more medically complex patients, the agency said.

For more:
- check out WBUR the article
- read the report