By Rich Umbdenstock
January 21, 2015 at 1:05 pm ET
The famous lyrics weren’t written with health care in mind – although today they could be. All around us we are seeing a profound revolution in how care is delivered. Look no further than your corner drug store, where flu shots and blood pressure monitoring have replaced soda fountains and, in some cases, cigarettes. Closer to home, your computer or smartphone now gives you access to an array of health care services from blood pressure monitoring to a convenient appointment with a nearby doctor.
Patients – particularly those who grew up in the digital age – expect the health care system to conform to their needs and desires and not the other way around. They want a revolution and now are getting one.
Hospitals, which are on the frontline of delivering community oriented care, are some of the leaders in this revolution. At a recent AHA event, we highlighted a sampling of these leaders and a few of the innovators that spur hospitals to greater heights and help make health care more accessible to consumers.
Retail Health Care. Retailers are bringing health care to where we live. The drug store around the corner is just as likely to offer medication monitoring, wellness check-ups and even virtual health services as potato chips, makeup and over-the-counter medications. Hospitals are both partnering and competing with these retailers in an effort to make care more convenient by bringing care even closer to where consumers work and live.
Telehealth. Telehealth is already changing how and where Americans get health care. It can be delivered in real time. Or information about a patient’s health can be stored and forwarded to a health care provider. Telehealth can even provide remote patient monitoring. And telehealth can be as accessible as your cell phone
Hospitals are on the frontlines providing this technology to consumers near and far. For example, by partnering with others, such as skilled nursing facilities, local health departments and schools, they can engage specialists in real time or in advance of an appointment. Telehealth can provide mental health services to areas without access, including psychiatry, expanding the availability of those services to smaller, more remote areas.
There’s an App for That. Need to manage your medications better? Want a diagnosis online and treatment in minutes? Need to refill prescriptions faster with less hassle? Want help thinking through what is most important to you so that your personal values can be matched with the best treatment option for you? There’s an app for that.
Hospitals are working with developers on these and other innovations to improve care by making it more personal, more convenient, more effective and less costly.
Hospitals are Changing Too. In such a rapidly changing environment, it should come as no surprise that hospitals, too, are changing. Many are realigning to form systems of care, partner with doctors, link up with or become more like retailers, and develop or work with technology companies to prepare for the future, not cement the past.
For hospitals, there are unique challenges. It seems that at every turn, regulations put them at a disadvantage. Barriers such as outdated restrictions on aligning with doctors, payment and licensing impediments to offering telehealth services and other entrenched regulatory policies can be an unnecessary drag on or even a bar to innovation.
Hospitals do want a revolution and expect to be leaders, partners and participants in the new world it creates. To get there in real time, will take a ‘little help from their friends’ in government to recognize that everyone has to change to fulfill the promise of this revolution.
Richard (Rich) Umbdenstock is the President and Chief Executive Officer for the American Hospital Association