Effective healthcare strives to provide quality health services in an efficient manner at reasonable costs. Naturally, achieving these goals can be challenging, especially when high-quality care requires the use of many resources. In the US, healthcare expenses have skyrocketed over the last many decades. There are many reasons for this, but one involves the use of inefficient healthcare techniques. Instead of pursuing proven cost-effective healthcare approaches, many organizations have continued established practices. And instead of enjoying reduced healthcare costs, they remain burdened by excessive expenses.
Fortunately, this does not have to be the case. Research supports a variety of cost-effective healthcare strategies that help achieve reduced healthcare costs. These range from new models of care to the enhanced use of health information technologies. Implementing these strategies naturally requires commitment and investments. But over a longer period of time, these changes can not only strengthen healthcare organizations but result in better patient outcomes. With this in mind, health care organizations should strongly consider a variety of approaches. The following are several potential efforts that could help him achieve these goals.
Reduced Healthcare Costs Through Chronic Disease Care Models
One of the ways to achieve reduced healthcare costs involves the use of chronic disease care models. An aging population has exacerbated the growth of the chronic disease burden in the US. Acute care management of chronic disease exacerbations uses extensive resources that are expensive. Healthcare organizations can adopt cost-effective healthcare practices by implementing proactive models of care. Such models include the use of standard protocols, scheduled follow-ups, and increased patient engagement. These practices have been shown to not only lower healthcare costs but also improve patient quality of life.
Research evidence supports these statements. In a study involving roughly 200 patients with inflammatory bowel disease, chronic disease models were highly effective. In comparison to patients who received routine care, chronic care disease model patients had significantly fewer admissions. Likewise, they enjoyed reduced healthcare costs that were less than half of those receiving routine care. This study highlights how a proactive approach using a chronic disease care model can produce more cost-effective healthcare.
Health Information Exchanges to Improve Cost Management
Other issues that have prevented cost-effective healthcare pertain to a lack of information sharing. When various providers or health care organizations lack access to patient records, healthcare services are often duplicated. Naturally, these unnecessary services contribute greatly to rising healthcare costs. Therefore, leveraging health information technologies to improve this situation can contribute to reduced healthcare costs. While many other industries have adopted such strategies, the healthcare sector has been slow to respond. But in order to be competitive in the future, the use of health information exchanges will be essential.
Increasingly, different electronic health record systems have been better able to communicate with one another. Advances in health information exchanges have facilitated these improvements. As a result, a wider range of providers can access patient information. Not only does this reduce the number of unnecessary tests and services, it also leads to more informed patient care that results in higher quality outcomes. Understanding this, cost-effective healthcare strategies should include investments in health information exchanges. Such investments have consistently resulted in reduced healthcare costs throughout the entire health care system.1
Cost-Effective Healthcare Using Alternative Providers
In many sectors and organizations, there is an inherent resistance to change. This has certainly been true of the healthcare industry in many regards. One of the most notable areas where change has been slow involves the use of alternative healthcare providers. Employing physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide primary and specialty healthcare services have been shown to be effective. Not only is the quality of care comparable to physician care in appropriate situations, but the use of alternative providers also results in reduced health care costs that are significant. As a result, this too is a proven cost-effective healthcare strategy that organizations should consider.
Numerous studies have shown this to be the case. Comparisons between physician assistants and medical doctors show that physician assistants are more cost-effective in every case. Even with different patient features, conditions, and health problems, this has been shown to be true. Not only do lower reimbursements for alternative providers contribute to these savings, but lower expenses are also related to savings involving diagnostics, treatments, and referrals. Therefore, organizations should consider increasing the use of these alternative healthcare providers as part of their overall cost-effective healthcare approach.
The Advantages of Multi-Disciplinary Teams
One of the main drivers of rising healthcare costs has been the explosion of information available in medical science. This proliferation has required increased specialization of providers who possess advanced knowledge. Unfortunately, this has led to a fragmented approach to many healthcare services that is inefficient and expensive. In contrast, a more cost-effective healthcare strategy pursues increased expert collaboration and knowledge integration. Multidisciplinary care, with a team of specialists, has been shown to result in reduced healthcare costs while also improving results.
The use of multidisciplinary teams has been shown to produce profound cost savings. In one study involving over 1,200 patients, an average of $978 in per patient savings was realized over time when multidisciplinary teams were used on inpatients. In addition, those receiving multidisciplinary care enjoyed at least comparable if not better healthcare outcomes. Because provider teams were able to share knowledge in an efficient way, fewer resources were utilized. Likewise, the improved care lowered length of stays in the hospital. This resulted in significantly reduced healthcare costs, showing that multidisciplinary teams represent a cost-effective healthcare strategy.
Taking a Multi-Faceted Approach to Healthcare
As is evident, there are a number of cost-effective healthcare strategies that organizations can pursue. Understanding this, it is important to take a multifaceted approach in an effort to achieve reduced healthcare costs. This requires providers to be proactive in nature, embracing health promotion and disease prevention activities. Likewise, it demands a more integrated and collaborative approach with greater access to healthcare information. These efforts will not address all the issues contributing to rising healthcare costs, but they will help significantly in allowing providers and organizations to better achieve their cost-saving goals.
1 “What Is HIE?” HealthIT.gov, July 24, 2020. https://www.healthit.gov/topic/health-it-and-health-information-exchange-basics/what-hie.