Healthcare’s Most Pressing Problems, According To Its Leaders (Part 1)

Most likely, in one of the few lucid moments you have in your hectic, even chaotic schedule you contemplate healthcare’s greatest problems, its most pressing questions in need of solving, obstacles and the most important hurdles that must be overcome. And how solving these problems might alleviate many of your woes. That’s likely an overstatement. The problems are many, some of the obstacles overwhelming.

There are opportunities, of course. But opportunities often come from problems that must be solved. And, as the saying goes: For everyone you ask, you’re likely to receive a different answer. What must first be addressed? In this series (see part 2 and part 3), we ask. We also examine some of healthcare’s most pressing challenges, according to some of the sector’s most knowledgeable voices.

So, without further delay, the following are some of the problems in need of solutions. Or, in other words, some of healthcare’s greatest opportunities — healthcare’s most pressing questions, problems, hurdles, obstacles, things to overcome? How can they be best addressed?

 Nick Knowlton, VP of strategic initiatives, Brightree

Nick Knowlton
Nick Knowlton

Throughout the healthcare ecosystem, patient-centric interoperability has historically been a huge challenge, specifically throughout post-acute care. This problem results in poor outcomes, unnecessary hospital re-admits, patients not getting the treatment they deserve, excessive cost burden and poor clinician satisfaction. This challenge can be solved through creating better standards, adapting existing interoperability approaches to meet the needs of post-acute care, implementing more scalable interoperable technologies, and involvement with national organizations, such as CommonWell Health Alliance and DirectTrust, amongst others.

Brian Wells, CTO, Merlin International

Cybersecurity is one of the most pressing hurdles in the healthcare industry. The life and death nature of healthcare and the shift to electronic health records (EHR) creates an environment where hackers that successfully deploy ransomware and other cyberattacks can extort large sums of money from healthcare entities and steal highly sensitive data. To address this challenge, healthcare entities need to continue to increase their investment in cybersecurity and focus on improving their overall security posture by implementing tools and processes that will monitor all devices and assess their compliance with security policies; stop phishing attacks; keep all servers patched and current; ensure third party vendors comply with policies; and train employees on proper security hygiene.

Lee Barrett, executive director, Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC)

Lee Barrett
Lee Barrett

Cyberattacks continue to expose the security vulnerabilities of healthcare institutions, keeping many industry stakeholders awake at night. This is why every organization handling protected health information (PHI) needs to build security frameworks and risk sharing into their infrastructure by implementing risk-mitigation strategies, preparedness planning, as well as meet industry standards for adhering to HIPAA requirements. Hospitals and healthcare systems must keep their focus on strategies and tactics that ensure business continuity in the event of an attack as it’s clearly not a matter of if a breach can happen but when.

Margaret J. King, Ph.D., director, the Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis

The core problem for healthcare isn’t science, technology or caregiving intervention. It’s making sure that the systems of delivery and communications are thought through and actually respond to the way patients need and expect healthcare to be delivered. This means it doesn’t matter how advanced and perfected your health system may be — unless it conforms to culture — the way people think and behave — it will do nothing but confuse and frustrate patient needs, which are psychological and social, as well as physical and mental.

Suvas Vajracharya, Ph.D., founder and CEO, Lightning Bolt Solutions

Suvas Vajracharya
Suvas Vajracharya

What about the doctors? In my mind, that’s the pressing question in healthcare. How do doctors fit into healthcare of the future? How can we leverage their expertise smartly while also helping them find new professional balance? AI technology can help. Not by replacing physicians with robots or chatbots, but utilizing AI to give physicians more balanced hours, safer shifts, and more flexibility to take time off. Using “physician intelligence” to set smart schedules that will efficiently match patients with the right physician, widen access for patients, and create a more viable environment to help physicians do what they do best — help patients.

Deirdre Ruttle, vice president of strategy, InstaMed

In all the buzz about healthcare consumerism, the biggest problem remains consumer confusion and fear toward healthcare bills leading to widespread frustration. According to the National Opinion Research Center, 40 percent of consumers fear the costs associated with an illness more than the percentage of consumers who fear an illness itself. Consumers demand the same convenience in healthcare payments that they experience in other industries. Successful providers and payers will be those who can offer secure and convenient healthcare payment experiences that include digital wallets, mobile options, automatic payments and payment plans.

Kathy Ford, president and chief product officer, Rhinogram

Kathy Dalton Ford
Kathy Dalton Ford

The problem in healthcare is the communication barrier between patients and their care teams. Providers are still utilizing voice calls and answering services as primary methods of communication. However, studies show more than 80 percent of patients would rather text with their provider than talk to them on the phone. Telehealth has leveraged this communication preference, enhancing the care experience. Providers can now directly engage with their patients through text-based clinical conversations, including images and document sharing in real time. This is especially important as new federal incentives for remote patient monitoring (RPM) and virtual care opportunities are expected later this year.

Robbie Hughes, CEO, Lumeon

A pressing question facing health providers today is, “how do we be sustainable and competitive in a value- and risk-based payment landscape?” This is a challenge that’s exacerbated by healthcare fragmentation, where siloed systems severely limit the ability to manage care processes efficiently, which leads to high operational costs and difficulty meeting the demands of payment models that are increasingly focused on outcomes. Importantly, it also prevents patients from getting the care they  need. To resolving the fragmentation challenge and deliver consistently good outcomes at a predictable low-cost, a ‘Care Traffic Control’ system is required, with technology that joins up siloed systems into a patient-centric, perfectly coordinated plan of care, supported by intelligent orchestration, automation and patient engagement technologies.

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