Healthcare reform has been a hot topic lately, with many leading health organizations advocating for new policies to strengthen care delivery and patient well-being. Despite this advocacy, reform is complex. Healthcare management and administration professionals are instrumental in overcoming challenges, such as legal obstacles and gaining public buy-in, so they can implement new policies that improve access, quality and affordability of healthcare services.
The online Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) program from University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) prepares graduates to make positive change within their organizations and impact patients’ lives with reform awareness and efforts. The curriculum dives into the dynamic relationship among policies, legislation and the quality of care. Courses like Healthcare Systems, Introduction to Healthcare Management, Healthcare Economics & Policy and Finance for Healthcare Managers help students gain an understanding of the intricacies of healthcare management and its role in delivering high-quality services to patients.
What Issues Are Driving Healthcare Reform?
Numerous issues have contributed to calls for healthcare reform. For example, the National Health Council, a nonprofit organization seeking to establish patient-centered health policies, bases its policy recommendations on four guiding principles, which largely summarize the issues central to reform:
- Promote high-value care
- Encourage research and competition for health products and services
- Reduce costs of care
- Advance health equity
Healthcare management professionals will likely encounter these additional reform issues:
- Staffing shortages. The pandemic was eye-opening for many healthcare leaders and highlighted the critical need to reshape the industry’s workforce. As noted in Health Affairs, one-third of clinical employees quit their jobs during the pandemic, resulting in as many as 2.7 open positions for every position filled.
- Care disparities. Health equity and care disparities have emerged as top issues in many public health initiatives. Organizations such as the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) seek reform that ensures equitable access to insurance coverage across demographics to close care gaps and individuals’ unhindered access to their protected health information (PHI).
- Changing patient demographics. An aging, more ethically and racially diverse population requires new approaches to care. These changing dynamics and increasing rates of chronic diseases pose significant challenges to healthcare systems trying to lower costs while providing high-quality care.
What Can Healthcare Administrators Do to Facilitate Healthcare Reform?
Although healthcare reform requires input from many entities and legislative bodies, healthcare leaders can promote initiatives that align with reform goals, leveraging their knowledge to improve processes and patient outcomes. The following are recommended ways healthcare administrators can facilitate healthcare reform:
- Invest in employees. Administrators can implement organizational policies that support frontline workers, including ones addressing burnout, workplace violence and mental health. As noted by Health Affairs, legislation may soon pass offering federal protections for healthcare workers impacted by violence or intimidation in the workplace, which can further support administrators’ efforts.
- Boost digital technology and skills. The rise of artificial intelligence and digital tools in the healthcare space can only reach their full potential if staff and organizations are prepared to use them. According to one health executive interviewed by the World Economic Forum, healthcare leadership must “reboot the skills required for delivering healthcare on new and altered platforms,” which may counter workforce shortages and improve public health surveillance and responses to future pandemics.
- Expand in-home care. Many aging adults prefer to live at home instead of moving to a long-term care facility but often need assistance with activities of daily living. To address the shortage of home care professionals, again from the World Economic Forum, healthcare administrators must work toward “elevating caregiving as a rewarding career, reframing public understanding of the profession and the value it delivers, and fully integrating home care into the healthcare ecosystem.”
- Advance health equity. Administrators should assess health disparities within their organization and community by analyzing demographic data, health outcomes and access to care. Tracking social determinants of health (SDOH) can help identify disparities and targeted interventions to address the root causes impeding equitable care delivery.
By leveraging their knowledge of healthcare reform, healthcare management professionals can improve processes, enhance care quality and ultimately drive better patient outcomes. Reform measures require administrators’ ongoing engagement, strategic decision-making and a willingness to continue learning and adapting to an evolving healthcare landscape.
Learn more about UNCW’s Master of Healthcare Administration online program.