The first year of President Trump’s administration has been strife with a lot of debatable policies. One of the topics of debate that’s dominated the headlines in 2017 is the Affordable Care Act and the future of the American healthcare system. Robert I. Field, a professor of law and healthcare management at Drexel University, pointed out some challenges ahead when he stated: “They’ve got to keep the government funded; they’ve got to deal with Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); they’ve got to deal with the cost sharing reductions under Obamacare.”
Professor Field highlights only some of the most pressing issues our healthcare system will face in 2018.
1. Cyber Security Breaches
If you’ve gone to your health care provider or a hospital recently, you may have noticed that tablets and computers are almost everywhere. Your health information is now being documented and stored digitally for a multitude of reasons. Although it may be far more convenient for hospitals and doctors, it also comes with some risks as well.
This store of information becomes a prime target for hackers. A data breach means healthcare organizations could compromise patient medical records, patient billing information, clinical trials, and research, as well as employee information and the financial information for the hospital itself. Cyber security is such a problem, 89% of healthcare organizations have reported some kind of attack within the past two years.
Although there haven’t been any cyber security breaches as of late, Equifax, the recipient of one of the major cyber security attacks of the decade, recently announced that their data breeche from 2017 impacted 2.4 million more people that originally thought, bringing the total to approximately 148 million Americans.
2. Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Each year, there are more than 17,000 medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the US. These lawsuits are such a commonplace, the Medical Scribe Journal suggests that an average doctor can expect to be sued once every 7 years. These lawsuits don’t just reach doctors; registered nurses, dentists pharmacists, chiropractors, and psychologists have also been sued.
Medical professionals don’t always have to pay a sum of money. Sometimes, they’ll face other repercussions that include giving the professional or the organization a bad name, thus driving patients away. It also drives up malpractice insurance premiums leading doctors to increase their rates. Being sued causes the doctor to begin practicing “defensive medicine”. Defensive medicine is a term for doctors ordering more tests and procedures than actually necessary in order to protect themselves in the case of a negligence lawsuit.
3. Maternal Mortality
When mothers go to the hospital to give birth, they expect that everything will go smoothly. Sadly, since 2000, maternal mortality has been increasing at an alarming rate. On a global scale, the maternal mortality rate has decreased by 36.6%, which is great news. However, in the US, that number has increased by 16.6%. These deaths occur for a multitude of reasons such as infection, embolism, mental health conditions and hemorrhaging, which is the top cause at 12.7%.
There are a few strategies that healthcare providers and mothers can employ to reduce the risk of maternal death and they include:
- Practicing good hygiene and monitoring for infection
- Provide a complete health evaluation for the expectant mother
- Provide access to education about pregnancy health
- Take proper cesarean precautions
- Provide adequate and affordable healthcare for women
4. Artificial Intelligence
Healthcare workers have a lot on their plates as it is, and whenever some of those tasks can be handed to an automated system, the more productive the employee can be. According to an article on PwC, AI can automate tasks like scheduling, accounting, timesheet entry, and routine paperwork.
The ease of automation is such an appealing idea that 3/4 of healthcare executives intend on investing in some form of AI over the next few years.
5. Healthcare Reform Complications
In an effort to try to pass some kind of healthcare reform, we can expect to see politicians and policy makers struggle to make important decisions this year. Healthcare organizations who do business over several states may find it challenging to comply with new mandates put in place, as well as local regulations for each of their facilities – 34% of the 300 organizations surveyed reported adhering to these regulations to be the biggest challenge they will face.
6. The Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis is going full force and it is going to be a major problem the healthcare industry and government will face. Mr. Field believes there will be some trouble trying to find funding for the treatment programs. “There’s going to be intense pressure to do something about opioids, and there’s going to be a dollar figure attached.” He goes on to say that the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) would play a role in the “over-prescribing” of opioid medications.
7. CHIP Funding
CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) provides 9 million children from low-income households with healthcare. The federal authorization for the program ended in October 2017 (but then was extended to December 21, 2017) and states had to use unspent funds to “carry them over,” as the government tried to work on a solution that would continue funding the program.
While government did come to an agreement to continue funding the program for another six years. After that, who knows what will happen to this widely successful program that has been helping children for more than 20 years.
2018 is going to be a big year for health care, not just for patients, but for everyone involved with the industry. Let’s just hope any changes that are made will be made for the better!
What are your thoughts on the direction healthcare is going right now? Do you think automation and digital records will affect patient experience? What are your hopes for healthcare reform? Leave a comment below and let us know!