Committed Leadership Trumps Healthcare Uncertainty
By now, you’ve certainly heard President-Elect Trump’s promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” What’s less certain is what policies will take the place of the Affordable Care Act, what provisions of the ACA will remain in place, and what this will mean for the ongoing transformation of our healthcare system.
It might be tempting for healthcare leaders to take a “wait and see” approach in the face of this looming uncertainty. This would be a mistake. In fact, we believe it has never been more important than it is right now to continue exploring new and better models of care delivery. There has never been a better time to pursue partnerships that connect health and social service providers. There has never been a better time to link the sectors and more fully coordinate whole-person care. There has never been a better time to create opportunities that do not yet exist.
Why? Because regardless of what happens with policy, we must respond to changes in our population. We cannot deny key trends – especially trends related to our aging population – that will require healthcare leaders to continue working toward a more connected and coordinated system of health, that results in better outcomes and healthier populations.
The Aging Nation: The senior population is already larger than ever before, and by 2030 people over the age of 65 will represent about 20% of the U.S. population. This significant shift in the demographics of our nation will put pressure on health and social organizations to work together to develop age-friendly communities and systems of health as well as create new solutions to best serve the needs of a changing population.
Increase in Healthcare Spending: The average senior spends three times more on healthcare than the average working adult. Average spending also doubles between the ages of 70 and 90. When paired with the aging population, spending and utilization are simply unsustainable and there is no choice but to address the current care delivery system.
Significant Rise in Chronic Disease: While half of all adults have at least one chronic condition, about 92% of seniors have at least one. In fact, 77% have two or more. These figures are only expected to rise in the future. With 85% of healthcare spending already associated with chronic conditions, this trend further contributes to the unsustainability of the current system.
Increase in Use of Community-Based Services: The aging trend also means increased need for and utilization of long-term support and services, as well as other types home and community-based care. Further fueling this trend is the aging population’s desire to age in community rather than in an institutionalized setting.
To address these trends, we need a system of health that meets the needs of the population more efficiently and effectively. Getting there requires transformation to a coordinated system that incorporates multiple provider types along the health continuum. Accomplishing this requires the vision and direction of committed leaders – leaders who can stay focused and power forward despite uncertainty.
The more uncertainty there is in a system, the more tempting it may be to lower goals and expectations. To aim only to survive, rather than to thrive. But uncertainty is not catastrophe for leaders that guide their organization through the obstacles and seize the opportunities. Leaders who clearly channel focus to common purpose, ensure aligned understanding, and evoke team members’ motivation will move their organizations towards being a successful unit in a system of health.
What can you do right now to lead during this time of uncertainty?
- Amp up curiosity in all your interactions.
- Regularly and robustly gather information to identify trends to see beyond near-term bumps and make long-term, strategic decisions.
- Communicate with your team frequently, including what you know, what you don’t know, and what everyone can do in response.
- Connect with others inside and outside your organization, sharing perspectives and making productive, population-focused partnerships a priority.
- Make collaboration a key component in your decisions, maximizing new purposeful opportunities without comprising current efforts.
Most of all, be committed. Recognize that the future of the healthcare system isn’t happening to you; it’s happening because of you. The future of health will be shaped by the decisions you make and the actions you take today, even in times of uncertainty.
There is no shortage of ideas and concepts on how to address these trends. The premium is on the ability to get the work done. To translate ideas to action.