Healthcare communicators: Prepare for change in a Trump administration

With the new administration coming in January, healthcare comms professionals need to partner closely with their government relations counterparts and prepare for change.

Image via Flickr & www.patientcaretechniciansalary.net.
Image via Flickr & www.patientcaretechniciansalary.net.

If you work in healthcare, 2017 will likely be quite an exciting year. 

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The law was designed to improve access and quality while making healthcare more affordable. Some of that worked and some more work needs to be done. It will be interesting to see what Trump's specific plans are to replace the nearly 7,000 pages of law that is nearly eight years old.

Also, change takes time. Healthcare is complex and affects 100% of the population. There is a lot at stake and taking a new direction, whatever that may be, will be a challenge for the new administration and all of those who work in healthcare and healthcare-related fields.

The Affordable Care Act has enabled tens of millions to access healthcare who were previously uninsured. It has driven up quality, in part by adding core measures for which all hospitals are now accountable. But, the cost of healthcare continues to rise, amounting to nearly 18% of the Gross Domestic Product. This burden on the U.S. economy is not sustainable. So, some significant change is needed.

The Affordable Care Act has also done away with pre-existing conditions, enabling citizens to change jobs without being restricted care due to their long-term medical problems. Further, the law allows families to keep their children insured through the age of 26.

Cleveland Clinic, like other healthcare systems, has been trying to adapt by taking tens of millions of dollars out of its system by reducing inefficiencies, duplicative services, renegotiating with vendors, and other measures to do our part. It has not been easy, nor are we nearing the end. This has become the new normal in healthcare. So, yes, more enhancements to the law need to be delivered so healthcare is a benefit we can all expect.

About 60% of Cleveland Clinic’s patients are insured by the U.S. government’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. Reimbursement continues to decline, out of pocket expenses for patients in increasing, and hospitals are shifting from a fee-for-service payment model to a value-based model.

Cleveland Clinic has kept our messages simple and consistent to all stakeholders. We continue to focus on driving quality and improving access and affordability for patients. Communication plays an enormous and critical role to get our physicians, caregivers, and patients to understand the changes, and know their role in the organization. Change seems constant and imminent in healthcare.

With the new administration coming in January, healthcare comms professionals need to partner closely with their government relations counterparts to understand what will be changing, how it will affect hospitals, and what needs to be done to adapt. Hopefully, changes will be positive and move the healthcare system along in the right direction for everyone. 

Eileen Sheil is executive director of corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic. She can be reached at sheile@ccf.org.

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