21st Century Solutions for 20th Century Problems

Bruce BroussardIn a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His latest — 21st Century Solutions for 20th Century Problems — is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

We all know health care is being transformed: from the emergence of remote, real-time monitoring to the continued adoption of value-based-care payment models, disruptive technologies are improving health care.

Yet despite the progress, health care is facing challenges.

Take demographics, such as population. Each day, 10,000 Americans turn 65, and the number of people over 65 is expected to grow from 46 million today to 98 million by 2060. We’ll need more caregivers, as there are now about 34.2 million people who have provided care to an adult age 50 or older.

Now look at the health of those people. Three in four Americans over the age of 65 are living with multiple chronic conditions. Unlike episodic treatment, caring for those with chronic conditions requires proactive prevention, assistance with lifestyle decisions, and multiple specialists to treat complex, serious diseases such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, etc.

So with more unhealthy people over the age of 65, how do we prepare primary care physicians, nurses, social workers and caregivers to handle this wave of change?

Primary care physicians are the centerpiece

These population and health factors are putting significant demands on nurses, social workers, pharmacists and primary care physicians who assist people living with chronic conditions.

Research has shown growing demand for these key professions. For example, there is a projected shortfall of between 14,800 and 49,300 primary care physicians by 2030.

These demographic and health challenges require the health care system to evolve – away from episodic care and toward holistic health, where the care for a person living with multiple chronic conditions is managed by the primary care physician.

If we’re to help prepare the next generation of health professionals, their education and training must evolve as well. Clinical models that slow disease progression and payment models that incentivize quality and cost savings must be integrated into the system. In addition, daily workflows that allow more time with fewer patients are essential.

Yet it’s not just the clinical. It’s important to partner with local charities and community agencies to address social determinants of health – food insecurity, social isolation and loneliness.

Medical schools are starting to change

Today, a select number of medical schools are evolving their curriculums to help the next generation of clinicians, including primary care physicians, embrace holistic health.

Holistic care is most effective when care is integrated, which occurs when multiple clinicians (e.g., physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and optometrists) are all aligned in a value-based model and working with one another to deliver a better patient experience and better outcomes. We need to build an integrated educational system to care for patients in this value world, and everyone has to work well together to make this a reality.

Recently, Humana and the University of Houston’s newly established College of Medicine announced that we’re going to build the Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute at the University of Houston. We’ll train physicians and other clinicians in integrated care delivery through a collaborative partnership with a focus on “advancing population health, improving health outcomes and expanding the use of value-based payment models.”

The new school will also integrate Nursing, Optometry, Pharmacy and Social Work. Social workers will be an integral element for taking care of underserved populations because they’re a key link between patients and community resources.

Working, thinking and building differently

Better management of chronic conditions, and addressing the social determinants of health that amplify them, is essential for transforming our health care system.

If we want to help primary care physicians and clinicians, then all entities in health care — universities, industry and government — must band together to advance the science of primary care. We’re moving to a consumer-focused health care system that’s integrated and personalized, and it will improve the health of the people it’s meant to serve.

Advancing care means we have to work differently, think differently and build differently.

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