Predicting the Impact of a Trump Presidency on Healthcare Communications

Love him or hate him, we Americans can count on one fact: the movement Trump created will shape the debate about the future of the American healthcare system for years to come. While we may or may not see changes in the number of patients who can access healthcare through Medicaid expansion and the national exchanges, the overarching forces that are shaping healthcare haven’t changed much at all.

No matter who is in office, or who is paying the bills, America will still be exerting whatever pressure it can to wring costs/inefficiencies out of the system, and improve overall health outcomes. So if you’ve been taking a “wait and see” attitude to see who wins this political fight, it’s time to get off the fence for good. Whether the answer will ultimately lie in vouchers, higher taxes, collective bargaining or even single payer systems is immaterial. Focus your investment and your attention on healthcare communications strategies that will put your organization on the right side of history, for the long term.

Ask yourself these questions:

What can we do to improve patient education?

Fard Johnmar of Enspektos Health has created a preliminary analysis of the Impact of a Trump presidency on healthcare policy and delivery. He’s one of the smartest voices in healthcare today. It’s a free report, and well worth the read. In it, he predicts that the Republican-led government will turn the march toward value-based care into a sprint.

This presents good opportunities for those in digital health creating platforms for population health management. It also creates an immediate mandate for your patient education materials. And I’m not just talking about your PR/Advertising that brings patients in the door. What are you giving them once they are in? Are they getting good written and verbal information that helps them understand the procedures they are getting? Are they getting good post-operative educational materials, and follow-ups from nurses and other staff that can help? Are patients with chronic illnesses getting regular calls to ensure maintenance compliance? Do they have access to support groups and information on how to live better with their conditions? If your patients are elderly or shut-ins, how easy is it to do video visits, or even just get someone on the phone if they have questions?

If you preside over a physician network, it may be time to talk about producing centralized patient education materials, instead of leaving this solely up to the physicians. Having a consistency of approach, and possibly even shared patient question banks, could be one way of tackling this problem, and differentiating your network in the bargain.

How can we help patients “shop around?”

The days when patients sign on for procedures or treatments without knowing what it will cost them are coming to an end. Whether it’s big government or insurers paying the bill, consumers will be asked to show more “personal responsibility” in managing their healthcare costs. That means payors may soon require patients to manage their own healthcare budget through vouchers, or, at the very least, prove the provider they are going to is offering the best price in their area.

Smart providers are already getting out in front of this consumer imperative by publishing their prices for every procedure, and getting a lot more consistent and predictable about how they bill. The Indiana Hospital Association is an example of one such organization on the leading edge of this trend. In 2014, they created careINsight, a statewide price comparison database that allows patients to compare costs at every hospital statewide for similar procedures such as knee replacements or hysterectomies. They can check quality ratings and incident reports, too.

Are we helping patients understand their lowest cost care options?

It’s not enough just to tell patients that they need an intervention, and then give them prices on that. If they have treatment options, they need to know them. Would it be better for them to have 10 weeks of physical therapy, or would swimming daily and doing some targeted exercises do? They may need an expensive medicine, but maybe a combination of generics and lifestyle changes may also have as good an outcome. This approach means that physicians need to be educated on how to help guide patients through their choices, and they need the tools to be able to show them the price differences that come along with those choices. This may also mean extra investments in nurses and other workers who can provide regular check-ins, and make sure these interventions are working properly for patients.

Are we offering patients a “middle way?”

Many Americans cannot afford expensive interventions, like living in an assisted living center, or taking a long stay in a rehab facility. The providers who figure out how to give meaningful care to these people will be the true winners in the healthcare market.

Take for instance, CHARLIE, a product launched by AllHealth Choice at this fall’s Louisville Innovation Summit. CHARLIE is an in-home interface that allows seniors to receive daily living monitoring on their medication and general welfare, socialization opportunities, and care coordination with family caregivers, all for a subscription price that is in the hundreds per month. It’s still not cheap, but for seniors who really need assisted living but can’t afford it, this middle way allows them to get much of the care they need at a price that’s far more doable.

As healthcare providers, how can you integrate yourself with these systems to be more effective for your patients? It’s a 21st century question everyone will eventually have to answer.

Are we leading patients to financial help?

Too often, healthcare providers feel they have to stand by helplessly and watch their patients forgo vital medicines or treatments, simply because they are beyond their reach financially.

New companies are trying to bridge that gap with technology. The recent winner of the Louisville Innovation Summit’s Startup Pitch Contest was Vivor, a company running a database service that will allow healthcare providers to enter a patient’s condition, income, and treatment needs, and be matched to all the pharma industry relief programs that could benefit them. Company execs say they can save the average hospital patient as much as $5K on their hospital visits…especially for patients with severe needs like those undergoing chemotherapy.

The healthcare organizations that excel in helping patients understand their care, and get the most from their healthcare dollar, will be the ones who emerge with the best outcomes. Don’t let your organization fall off the list.

By Susan Gosselin, Principal of Gosselin PR. For more articles like this, visit http://www.gosselinpr.com