One of the most recognizable and influential parts of the American health care system is the modern hospital, but how has its role changed from just a building with four walls to become the thriving center of the community?
In this latest episode of Hospitals In Focus, Chip is joined by Jeff Goldsmith, President of Health Futures. Jeff has spent his lengthy career thinking, writing, and optimizing strategies to improve hospital care and the two discuss everything from the benefits of scaling hospitals to what pandemic-inspired innovations hospital systems will preserve once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
When asked about the benefits of hospitals at scale during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeff praised hospitals’ abilities to quickly jump into action and coordinate between their facilities. “I think the health systems in the cities that were hit first by COVID – you think about Detroit, the New York Metropolitan area, New Orleans – health systems in these communities were able to coordinate care across an entire region, across multiple facilities, and to make decisions quickly about where patients could be best be seen. [They] stood up testing capabilities when public health outlets were not able to do so and were able to coordinate how their facilities operated to be able to manage the surge of hospital patients that hit them in the late spring of 2020. It was a remarkable performance.”
Jeff and Chip then turned their attention to the history of hospitals, how they have evolved, and what the future role of hospitals and health care will be, “When I began my Consulting work in the early 1980s, the central question that a lot of my clients were asking was… how do we compete with organized care systems?” Jeff continued to note that this question remains essential to the discussion but that “policymakers going back to Richard Nixon’s administration have actively encouraged the formation of these [complex and multileveled] systems because they wanted to use them as the pivot point for changing how care is paid for.”
Jeff wrapped up the episode by talking about new developments in the health care system and mentioned critical innovations that will be here to stay for a while. “Well, certainly the development that has gotten the most press has been the unfolding of telehealth, not only telephone physician consultation, but also Zoom and video consultation. I do believe we are going to see this as an enduring feature of the care system. It was very difficult to get adoption of these modalities at scale. They’ve been around for two decades, but when hospitals were compelled to shut down elective care during the spring of 2020, they stood up telehealth access in remarkable speed.”