Becoming More Accountable: Three Ways Health Care is Changing

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Madison, Wisconsin - With our nation's health care system frequently in the headlines, all the talk about improvements – in access, quality, coordination of care and prevention – is often bundled under the heading of accountable care.


At UW Health, we're embracing the momentum for change, defining accountability for our organization and focusing our efforts on key areas we think will make the biggest difference for patients and families.


1. Partnering with Patients and Families to Make Decisions


As a health care organization, we're ultimately accountable to patients. Yet, sometimes health care delivery systems – including those at UW Health – aren't designed from the patient's point of view. The good thing is we're asking patients and families to help us change that.


First, we're including patients and families as members of their health care team. Our goal is to truly partner in making care decisions. That means we're doing more in our clinics to provide educational and health management resources. When you're at UW Hospital and Clinics, we're including you and your family in physician rounds, so you're part of each day's goal setting and planning during your stay and for when you'll be able to leave the hospital.


Second, we're including patients and families on advisory groups and committees to redesign care delivery, so their insights are part of decision-making every step of the way. Dozens of patient and family advisors are already serving in these roles throughout UW Health, lending their perspective on primary care innovations, design of new facilities and introduction of new programs and technologies.


2. Connecting with Patients Before, After and Between Visits to the Doctor


Today's emphasis on accountability is also making health care organizations look more closely at what happens before, after and between clinic visits and hospital stays. We're doing more to plan ahead so patient visits are as productive as possible. We're following up to help patients and families understand home care instructions or recommended lifestyle changes. Through online tools like UW Health MyChart, we're making it easier for patients to connect with their care team. And through MyChart and other methods, we're reaching out to patients between visits to make sure they get appropriate wellness information, preventive screenings and care for chronic conditions.


At some of our primary care clinics, patients now get a phone call a couple of weeks before a scheduled visit to review health concerns, schedule screenings and arrange for lab tests, so the results can be ready when they come to the clinic. If these changes haven't come to your clinic yet, they will soon. Our goal is to make the most of patients' time with us and – although we're always glad to see you – to help you stay healthy and out of the doctor's office and hospital.


3. Taking a Broader View of the Health of Our Communities


Most of us spend only a tiny fraction of our time in the doctor's office. Between clinic visits or hospital stays, we're busy working, spending time with our families and engaged in our communities. We're also awash in social, environmental and cultural influences that have a huge impact on our health and wellness. How can health care systems be accountable if they don't look beyond individual patients to the broader factors that help or hinder health?


With the nation's only combined school of medicine and public health, UW Health has unique expertise in what influences the health of communities – you might have seen media coverage of our county health rankings released in March, which discussed many of those factors in detail.

We're committed to translating that knowledge into programs to improve the health of our communities.


Take diabetes care for example. Focusing on the health of communities means we need to be good at more than caring for individual diabetes. We have to work just as hard to develop programs and resources that will help diabetes patients as a group to manage their disease. Just as important, we need more effort to support lifestyle changes that will prevent diabetes in the first place.


There's no question that we have our work cut out for us. The changes happening today in health care are exciting, but they're not easy, and they can't be accomplished overnight. We know that partnerships will be crucial. Becoming more accountable will require health care professionals and patients to think, behave and partner in new ways. Stay tuned for more as we work toward creative new solutions.

Date Published: 05/16/2013

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