Addressing the harsh realities of global health systems

Clinical exhaustion, helpless patients and caregivers, skyrocketing costs, too many barriers to accessing care and vastly inequitable health outcomes. These are the realities of global health systems. In the year 2022.

For decades, global healthcare spending has focused on impressive-looking bricks-and-mortar hospitals and hospital-centric technology systems. Traditional health systems have focused on the diagnosis and treatment of illness rather than helping to prevent the onset of disease or building more resilient health systems. According to the OECD, funding continues to be centred around inpatient and outpatient services – accounting for around 60% of healthcare spending.

To remain sustainable, healthcare needs significant transformation. Of course, this isn’t a new idea, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark wake-up call for the real need for change. To address the fundamental issues in today’s health system, we need to find a way to achieve the Quintuple Aim: improved patient experience, provider experience, health outcomes, reduced cost of healthcare and enhanced equity.

Drivers for health system transformation

Pressure on the current inefficient systems and processes negatively impacts our ability to achieve these aims. This blog is the first in a series of blogs that takes a look at some of the drivers behind this failure. Each blog will expand on one of the points below and discuss how healthcare can address these challenges to help meet the Quintuple Aim.

Clinician burnout

Burnout frequently stems from the pressure on clinical teams to ‘do more with less’ while constantly running into obstacles, including technology that is difficult to use and bureaucracy that doesn’t contribute to the care of patients. It also comes from ethical or moral distress related to the realisation that many patients will not receive the highest standards of care their clinicians believe they deserve.

To address this, we need to find a way to relieve the burden on exhausted clinician staff by automating key processes, facilitating better patient-clinician partnerships and empowering patients to play a more active role in their care.

Poor caregiver and patient experience

Like their clinicians, caregivers and patients suffer from inefficient systems, long wait times and difficulty finding trustworthy information. Accessing the health system is often complicated and confusing. People are also expecting more from the health system based on the way they use digital services in other domains, which are generally far better – consider online banking, real estate and travel, for instance.

Healthcare needs to significantly improve people’s access and interactions with their health system. Empowering patients to better navigate the health system and find the information they need will help to alleviate some of the pressure on the system itself.

Poor health outcomes

Current health systems are struggling to meet the needs of the populations they serve. Evidence, for example, is the fact that US life expectancy has declined since 2017. Access and navigation issues provide barriers to people getting the care they need.

Leveraging a digital front door that contains the tools for patients and their caregivers to better educate and treat themselves, interact with their care plan, engage with clinical teams when necessary and understand when an intervention is needed opens the door to many more positive possibilities.

Escalating healthcare costs

Based on forecasts from the OECD, healthcare spending will outpace GDP growth for the next 15 years. But is this money being spent to maximise healthcare value and outcomes? System inefficiencies are apparent across the spectrum of healthcare. Healthcare spending is still focusing on treatment rather than prevention.

Taking a population health approach and shifting to a more value-based care model that focuses on quality of care provided over quantity would enable investment in the right places and help maintain sustainable healthcare systems in the long term.

Major gaps in health equity

Inequity in healthcare access and delivery are widely-recognised issues. Most health systems struggle to reach the so-called hard-to-reach populations such as immigrants, people of colour, and the poor. They also struggle to help patients living in rural or remote locations.

Meeting people where they are, with technology that provides more ways for people to interact with the health system and tailoring services to the needs of a particular population will help. We also need the data to understand more about who these people are and what their exact needs are.

Extending mainstream medicine is key

Taking a digital-first strategy can extend the reach of mainstream medicine. Incorporating digital front door technology will enable people to self-manage their health and wellbeing and help ease the total load of overburdened clinicians. This approach coupled with ensuring the right data is available for better decision-making at the clinician and the system level will have a marked effect on overall system performance.

Automating key processes, improving patient-clinician relationships and ensuring patients are being treated in the right place and at the right time will enable clinicians to focus their time on where it matters most. Leveraging smart technology solutions that empower people and continue to add value to the system over time will ultimately ensure patients receive the best possible care, always.

Interested in reading more about why healthcare needs transformation to ensure systems are sustainable for the future?

In our next blog we will focus on the topic of clinician burnout and how improving patient engagement will help relieve the total load on clinical teams.