The conclusion of the Olympics is a time for U. S. residents to stand tall and proud, and to cheer our success. Unfortunately, we are also a leader in the cost of healthcare, and cannot be proud of that at all.
Employee salaries, insurance costs and the costs of procedures, from drawing blood to knee replacements, are all sky high. While America is strong in developing new techniques and procedures, we must find ways provide the same quality but, at less cost.
Most healthcare experts say preventative medicine is the best way to achieve less costs in the future. Insurance companies must continue to promote wellness and fitness. My company, Centrex Rehab®, operates on the assumption that we need to start working with people before a crisis, instead of waiting until they are suffering from a debilitating fracture or illness.
There are many ways of promoting wellness in various populations. We offer our EverActive Wellness Club® to an assortment of assisted livings, independent senior apartments, and nursing homes. The club features fitness classes, massages, wellness checks, personal training, therapy and educational opportunities. What is unique about this is that it is all directed by physical and occupational therapists. Their skills are needed as much for prevention as they are for recovery.
Additional services provided for the community include Access Solutions, which helps clients make physical modifications in their homes so they can function more independently and stay at home longer. Cognitive Solutions works to meet the needs of people with Alzheimer’s and similar conditions—and their families. Through a standardized testing system, we are able to work with caregivers in a variety of settings to provide training on what they can expect during any given phase of a condition. In my eyes, this is a step towards preventing numerous things that can go wrong with cognitive conditions.
An integrated, coordinated model of care can help reduce health care costs through the following means:
- Builds a stronger, more independent population through collaboration
- Offers health education and home modifications to help people stay out of more expensive skilled nursing settings
- Creates a system with a range of options and treatments, which is especially helpful to older adults who have multiple medical conditions
- Saves patients time and money so they do not have to consult with too many providers
- Integrates therapy services with entire medical team to be sure medications are properly coordinated and all the pieces of a care plan fit together
Other steps practitioners can take to reduce costs include the following:
- Connect care communities with clinics, therapy, house calls & care networks
- Prevent rehospitalization through collaboration between healthcare professionals to provide more consistent care
- Coordinate care through cooperating partners with the same objective so billing, payments and reimbursements are implemented smoothly
We also need to create more cohesive electronic medical charting, shared by everyone who sees patients. For example, if a patient is hospitalized because of a stroke, the speech evaluation completed in the hospital should be the one all providers are able to use for continued treatment. Why should a new one have to be written and paid for by Medicare?
In addition, we must look outside the paperwork box and think about what is realistic. Is it better for therapists to spend time writing up new evaluations when they could be spending precious time helping patients? As professionals are assessing their patients daily, they can make any necessary changes to the plan within the daily or weekly documentation, if there is a need.
In the short term, the healthier we keep our patients, the less expensive healthcare will be. Long term, it is up to us to create systems that reduce redundancy. Integrated systems are the best solutions, allowing health care professionals to do what they were trained for: treat patients and treat them well. If we can accomplish this, we will succeed in reducing costs—and the American health care system, like U. S. Olympic team, can be a source of pride.
Kristy Brown is the president and CEO of Centrex Rehab. Brown was the executive director of therapy services at Augustana Therapy Services (ATS) between 1999 and 2012.