Deloitte’s 2016 Global Healthcare outlook focuses mainly on the battle between balancing financial constraints whilst still improving the standard of healthcare that is provided by organisations.
In the report the struggles faced are outlined, and split into three macro issues that stakeholders will need to address to reduce costs without adversely affecting the care which is provided.
The three issues that required addressing in order to reduce costs, in the opinion of Deloitte, were identified as sector fragmentation, population health and volume to value. What do these phrases mean in reality however?
‘Sector defragmentation’ is the belief that the current split between clinical and financial management must be removed in order to allow a connected and consolidated approach to handling both areas as one. This, they have argued, will lead to a greater understanding of how to manage budgets within a health organisation most effectively. It should lead to a greater understanding of which areas are in severe need of additional funding, and which can manage a lower budget equally as effectively should cuts be required.
‘’Population health’ is where the ‘cost curve’ is managed by joining up health and social care to ensure a transition from the ‘break-fix’ care model that is currently in widespread use, to a model focusing on prevention, predictive maintenance, and improving the outcomes for the patient.
It is hoped that prevention and predictive maintenance should help catch health problems before they become more serious, and thus save the need for complex operations and medical care in the later stages of a patient's illness. This is often vastly more expensive, and often involves care over a long period of time which can use a great deal of an organisation’s already stretched resources.
The final of the three ‘macro issues’ Deloitte identified is ‘volume to value’. Rising costs are forcing hospitals into transitioning their bonus structure to a ‘Value-Based Care’ (VBC) model. This aligns the bonuses (and penalties) received by staff with cost, quality and outcome based measures. It’s a strategy which should provide benefits for both the organisation, medical professional and patient. For the patients it should mean safe, suitable and successful care with lasting results. For the hospital, it should mean that they employ evidence-based medical treatments and techniques that take into account the patient's preferences and conditions.
It will reward hard working, talented medical professionals, whilst acting against those who rush (or ‘botch’) operations. Ensuring that the best are rewarded, and can prove that they possess the skills that are required to be a highly effective skilled practitioner.
Whilst these ‘macro issues’ are the main findings of their 2016 report further, heavily linked, issues affecting the industry were also discussed in detail.
“Health quality is not keeping pace with longevity, nor is the development of age-appropriate health policies and services.” That was the conclusion that the report came to when speaking about the challenges that the increase in people living later in the life brought with it.
The healthcare industry is struggling to keep up with the services required by an increasingly large elderly population in order to remain suitable for its clientele. The average life expectancy on earth has risen by over 18 years since 1960, and this has brought with it a much larger demand for services relating to medical conditions which previously only affected a small percentage of the world’s population. The healthcare industry must now adjust to this, by providing an increased number of facilities for the elderly.
As the world’s population continues to grow, as so does the number of people suffering from both chronic and communicable diseases in both developed and less economically developed countries. Access to healthcare facilities and professionals in these areas continues to vary widely for the population. This is due to a range of different reasons - ranging from a simple lack of medical infrastructure, to much more complex issues around the allocation of funding. Either way disease remains an issue which healthcare globally is still struggling to effectively tackle according to Deloitte.
The final demographic point made in the report was a very potent one, and something that cannot be overlooked or taken lightly by anyone within the medical industry. Today’s patients are as knowledgeable, involved in and financially responsible as they have ever been for their healthcare. As a result, the expectations they have for the service they will receive are higher than ever.
The current global financial situation is one which is well spoken about, but the effect it has had on healthcare can often be only briefly touched upon. As costs increase throughout the industry many countries state systems are turning to ‘Public Private Partnerships’, as well as alternative financial models in order to try and improve the standard of care which is provided, through extra funding, and more modern medical infrastructure. It is a move which has been embraced in the education system, but only time will tell if the medical industry follows suit.
In the quest for further funding and original ideas the business case for ‘everywhere care’ continues to grow. This is where care is delivered through alternative sites such as retail clinics, homecare, telehealth and medical tourism. These can help to meet the increased demand for medical facilities as populations continue to grow, as can they ease the financial burden on already stretched (especially state funded) systems.
They are in no way a complete solution however. Their growth opens up many more potential jobs for medical professionals, jobs which simply cannot be filled due to a lack of appropriately trained medics prepared to move to different locations to practice.
There is always going to be a demand for medical professionals, and according to Deloitte, that demand looks set to increase further in the future of worldwide healthcare.