Student Voices
Apr. 11 2016

Healthcare and the Informed Consumer

Thanks to the Internet and smartphones, younger generations have grown up with technology constantly by their side. Instantaneous information is now available on any imaginable topic, whether we are searching for the best restaurant or a vacation destination based on our preferences and price range. So, it's no surprise that patients are similarly demanding a healthcare system where they can play an informed and active role in their care.

One of healthcare’s biggest challenges in the United States is adapting to a new kind of patient — an informed patient. And healthcare consumerism is becoming a core principle in a movement toward providing quality-centric, affordable care to patients with constant access to information.

There are a number of challenges at the forefront of healthcare trends that health providers must face, ones that didn't exist 20 years ago—such as an increasing aging population and the proliferation of mobile devices into multiple areas of the health consumer's life.

Mobile technology enters healthcare through fitness and wellness applications, acting as a platform for communication between physicians, patients and pharmacies, as well as a replacement for electronic medical record (EMR) systems in rural countries. Integrating technology into healthcare, however, raises concerns of information security and its long-term efficacy in health systems all over the world.

As hospitals, provider organizations, and insurance companies consolidate to remain competitive in a tight healthcare market, they are shaping how prices are negotiated in the United States. In tackling the costs of an industry that dominates 20 percent of the nation’s GDP, we must consider the effects of large organizations growing even larger, and how this will impact the everyday patient’s access to care.

A major aspect of our work as incoming healthcare leaders will be to implement policy that reduces healthcare cost burdens for current and future generations. One such challenge that healthcare policymakers will face in the next 15 years will be to tackle the huge influx of baby boomers reaching retirement and utilizing Medicare to finance their healthcare consumption. The growing demands on our healthcare system, such as the proliferation of nursing and long-term care facilities, are unprecedented.

The Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare) attempts to address this influx in some ways, but its adoption and utilization still has major political ramifications. Legalized in 2010, one of the Affordable Care Act’s many arms include a mandate that all healthcare consumers must have health insurance, whether it be received through an employer or purchased through an online insurance marketplace. Experts from insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital systems need to discuss the implications of potential reforms or repeals of the Affordable Care Act, and professionals and students of health should be prepared for any scenario.

To actively respond to these current and incoming issues, the Department of Health Policy and Management at Mailman has chosen "Consumerism in Healthcare" as the theme for their annual conference. The daylong event, open to all Mailman students, will feature keynote speakers and panels on these challenges to help prepare us for our future roles as policy makers and health workers.

The panels on hand are:

  • Health Policy and The 2016 Election: an exploration into the political impact of the upcoming election on various healthcare sectors in the United States.

  • Consolidation in Healthcare: Rightsizing will discuss the current merger and acquisition trend in health organizations, which is changing how patients choose providers and afford their care.

  • Aging Successfully, How To Direct Policy: This breakout session will feature panelists exploring the financing of elderly care and its implications on policy for graceful and comfortable aging.

  • M-Health, Disrupting the System: A conversation surrounding the numerous questions about this shift in healthcare, from various perspectives as developers, entrepreneurs, and cybersecurity specialists.

Not only are these themes relevant to policy creation, but they also rely on strong implementation through strategic management. The conference aims to engage, inform, and inspire future public health leaders to make care affordable and accessible for patients in an ever-shifting landscape. As public health students, we greatly benefit from participating in such conversations with renowned experts in these niches.

To learn more about the HPM conference and purchase tickets to attend, visit the website.

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By Prithvi Addepalli,
Health Policy and Managdment, MHA '17