January 15, 2014

The Center for Innovation Shaping the Future of Health Care

By Douglas L. Wood, M.D.

Dr. Douglas WoodThe delivery of health care in the United States hasn’t changed much in over 100 years. The model created many years ago and still used today makes people travel to see a doctor on the doctor’s schedule, when appointments can be fit in, rather than having a doctor try to find the best way to care for a person’s need. The future of health care needs to shift to what people need, not what the current system needs. And it should shift to one of paying doctors for the health and well-being of people and patients, instead of the current emphasis on illness care and fee for service that is more costly.

The Center for Innovation at Mayo Clinic has been focused on researching, experimenting, piloting and building out new models of care delivery centered on human needs. We’ve been working with patients, care teams and Mayo Clinic physicians, and we’ve explored beyond that — in surrounding communities and people’s homes. Patients tell us every day what they expect and what their experience with doctors and hospitals feels like to them. They share their fears and expectations with our team as we do our research, and they help us understand their experience and needs.

We have learned several important lessons that I find largely missing in the national conversation and should be the compass by which health care evolves. First, people fear the high cost of care more than anything else, even when they have insurance. They are confused and overwhelmed with appointment processes, the insurance processes and ever-changing information and broken promises. Most consumers are living on a thin line of financial security, and are frightened and stressed out over all these changes and the new financial expectations put on them.

Dr. Wood and colleaguesAlso, patients expect us to always be there for them — when they need to come to a care provider and when they need support and advice. What’s becoming critically more important is to be there when they never even knew they needed us — to help promote their wellness and health and help lessen the need for complex hospital care.

These expectations are not unreasonable. In today’s environment, they are technologically available. However, they are simply not activated to their fullest potential largely due to policies and reimbursement models driving the current changes.

These shifts will require a broad spectrum of delivery models. Those range from opening access to medical care by enabling conversation and relationships with other care team members besides physicians, to the introduction of medical homes that support wellness and connectivity with new roles in health care, such as those of wellness navigators and support when away – mobile and at home.

The future of health care needs to find the models that will support the health of all people. Yes, new technologies are needed, but that will never replace the human touch — the conversations and the relationships patients and people everywhere need at some specific time in their care. By delivering such personalized care, we can meet our patients wherever they are and always be there for them. This model of care will give our patients greater peace of mind and prove less costly than the way we take care of people now.

If you're interested in learning more about the Center for Innovation, I encourage you to attend the annual Transform symposium, Sept. 7-9, 2014 and watch my video presentation, "Reframe", from last year's event.

Editor’s note: Douglas L. Wood, M.D., FACP, FACC is a practicing cardiologist and the medical director of the Center for Innovation at Mayo Clinic.



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