The health care industry continues to make great strides in providing the most advanced patient care year after year – the innovation and technical accomplishments in health care are simply more amazing every day. Our technical ability to provide outstanding patient care in the United States is the envy around the world. However, these great strides come with challenges too. As health care becomes more sophisticated and advanced, it also becomes more complicated to deliver. The industry requires more and more specialists with specific expertise to provide this technically advanced care. So why do we hear so many criticisms about health care in the United States? The answer is simple – our advanced patient care needs to be delivered more effectively and efficiently to reduce the high cost of health care in the United States, which has been increasing at an unsustainable rate.
How can we make this happen? One solution is to drive more collaboration into the work space. With advances in health care and the trend toward increased specialization of care givers, it has become more and more critical to improve communication between everyone involved in the delivery of patient care.
Stephen Covey's book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People describes the development of a human being. In the early stages of life, a person is completely dependent on other people to survive and grow. In time, the person develops and becomes more independent from others. They become capable of thinking and working as an individual. Covey suggests that there is another stage beyond being independent. He called it interdependency – where people work together and collaborate to achieve even greater accomplishments and satisfaction. Many people have intrinsically felt the need to drive collaboration over the years and build this interdependency.
You can see this progression in schools today. Schools are teaching students how to effectively collaborate now more than ever. Students are seeing the results of their collaborative efforts. They are demanding an open collaborative environment as they enter the workforce. I recently gave a presentation to a graduate class from a Health Services Administration program. I was sharing some advances in the building industry about integration and collaboration. I will never forget the reaction from the students – they simply couldn't believe that the higher level of collaboration that I was describing was not already happening in the industry. At that point, the generational gap of expectations regarding collaboration became obvious to me.
You can also see this progression within Health Care Reform. Following last year's Supreme Court decision and Presidential Election, there is no longer any doubt that Health Care Reform legislation is here to stay. Connecting the new reimbursement model with patient outcomes is beginning to happen. Health care organizations are moving fast to understand what this means and are working to structure themselves to operate successfully within this framework. For many health care organizations this means acquiring physician practices, creating strategic partnerships with other health care providers, and perhaps merging with other health care organizations. In many cases, this is being done to affect and manage the entire continuum of care. However, don't make the assumption that integration by acquisition, partnership, and even merger will necessarily bring more collaborative care.
Think about how departments work together within your organization now. They work for the same company, but do they always communicate and collaborate like they do? Is there opportunity for improvement even when they do collaborate? You are not alone. Fortunately, the industry has some great examples of better collaboration driving better outcomes and results for health care organizations. I have seen collaborative care teams in the emergency department where a doctor and a nurse see the patient together. Or the collaborative rounding that happens on hospital inpatient units where a team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc. assess the patient's progress and create a comprehensive plan for care together. These strategies have shown to reduce length of stay in both settings and even decrease elopement rates in the emergency department.
Health Care Vice President
Messer Construction Co.