THOUGHTS

Cost-Saving Ideas for the Future of American Healthcare

Feb 10, 2017

The Healthcare system in the United States is presently facing turmoil and uncertainty. As Donald Trump and the Republican Party attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act—nicknamed ‘Obamacare’—those in need of health care in the country are left with many questions. What will replace Obamacare? How will access to the healthcare system change? What will the cost be to individuals? Moreover, how will this supposed healthcare reform impact the healthcare industry financially?

While some of these burning questions will remain unanswered for some time, what we can ascertain is that there are many ways players in the healthcare system can cut costs to become more effective and save money in these turbulent times. Here are some small but significant ways for the healthcare industry to save money:

  • Reduce use of anesthesia providers: According to RAND Health, roughly USD 1.3 billion was spent on anesthesia providers during gastrointestinal procedures in 2009. However, only roughly USD 0.2 billion was spent on high-risk patients. Reducing anesthesia use and anesthesia providers for low-risk patients could potentially save over USD 1 billion dollars.
  • Adopt ultrasound guidance: Using ultrasound guidance for central line placement helps to avoid catheter complications and errors during insertion. According to RAND, reducing errors can result in savings of over USD 50 million.
  • Modernize communications equipment: Too many hospitals and doctors’ offices are still using outdated technology such as fax machines and early-2000s scanners. Modernizing equipment will allow for faster and more effective communication between staff and patients and between healthcare providers. Modern, high-quality equipment will also have greater compliance with digitized medical records and will eliminate many repair costs.
  • Ensure as many patients as possible have health insurance: If Trump’s mysterious new plan (Trumpcare?) is in any way similar to Obamacare, as many speculate that it could be, ensuring high enrolment numbers is essential to keeping costs down for a large number of people.
  • Increase diagnostic efficiency: Adopting more effective and advanced diagnostic methods, techniques, and machinery will allow healthcare system providers to make diagnoses with greater accuracy. Reducing misdiagnoses and allowing more patients to receive the right treatment will save money in the long term.
  • Encourage use of generic drugs: Policies encouraging the use of less expensive generic drugs will benefit the patients and the healthcare system as a whole, resulting in cost savings and increased and more affordable access to necessary treatment.
  • Increase regular inspections of healthcare facilities: Inspecting healthcare facilities on a regular basis and ensuring that they are adhering to regulation, law, and the health code will promote trust between facilities and patients. Such inspections will go a long way to protect the public, resulting in greater patient retention and the number of patients who are choosing to opt in for such services from healthcare system.
  • Reduce risk of HAI: According to the CDC, there were 721,800 cases of hospital-associated infection (HAI) in 2011. Patients undergoing central line, catheter, or ventilator related treatments are often at risk for infection. Preventing infection by increasing hand hygiene, barrier precautions, and antibiotic use, amongst other things, will result in significant cost savings for the industry.
  • Increase preventative measures for patients: Increasing preventative procedures and exams, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, will save money in the long term by working to prevent serious cancers and other diseases that require intensive and expensive treatment.
  • Price and quality transparency: According to Fortune, market competition can work to control healthcare costs just as it works to control costs in other industries. Hospitals and other healthcare providers being transparent about their costs will create competition, encouraging hospitals to improve and strive to meet patient needs. It will also save patients money as they will be able to select the most affordable treatment and hospital for themselves.

In the coming days and weeks, we can expect to see where Donald Trump intends to take the future of the US healthcare system and whether or not his proposed healthcare reform will implement cost saving ideas for the healthcare industry and patients alike. Hopefully, healthcare providers in the US will be able to benefit, reduce costs, and work towards more effective treatment and a healthier population.

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