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The Future of Healthcare, Pt. 2

Oct 25, 2015 03:51PM ● By MED Magazine

By Alex Strauss


In the first part of our multi-part interview series on The Future of Healthcare, we talked to the heads of large and small area health systems about the challenges they foresee for both their organizations and the physicians that work within them in the coming 5 to ten years.

This month, we take a more positive approach and ask the same group to share what they see as the greatest opportunities for their systems to adapt and grow in a rapidly-changing healthcare environment.

Fred Slunecka, Avera Health: Fragmentation has been a hallmark of healthcare delivery in the United States and a source of inefficiency and excessive expenditures. Integration is the key to success.

Integrated delivery systems can improve care coordination, reduce waste and service duplication, and improve health outcomes. The success of integration depends largely on how systems work together with physicians and other clinical staff by developing shared goals and visioning as well as how well the system can operationally align service delivery and patient experience. One key way we ensure integration at Avera is through dyad physician-executive leadership in our medical group and through our service lines.

Workforce shortages, continuing cost inflation and service demand intensify the call for more effective and efficient use of resources. There will be no new money, so there’s increased pressure to get more out of the dollars we do have. Everyone will need to work smarter and more closely together.


Brent Phillips, Regional Health: There are opportunities in genomics, regenerative medicine and applications for improving the quality of life. Another great opportunity is the fact that healthcare is moving from a treatment-only approach to a more balanced approach, focusing on prevention, education and treatment.


Jill Fuller, Prairie Lakes Healthcare System: Collaboration is our greatest opportunity.  As we move into population health, we will need to partner with providers outside our own systems and organizations in order to reduce costs and improve outcomes. 


Paul Hanson, Sanford USD Medical Center: Choosing your partner, either professionally or personally, is one of the most important decisions that you will make in your career and life.  An aligned mission and vision begin to set the course and expectations of organizations seeking integration. 


In addition, the move from fee-for-service to value-based services demands standardization, mass customization and safe and reliable systems and processes.  This shift will challenge the historical perspective that more is better. 


Finally, full implementation of the ACA will continue to drive patient engagement and shift costs to the consumer.  Consumers have already become more active and engaged in their care – and expectations are changing – to a heightened focus on quality healthcare that is more conveniently accessible.  Relationships will become more and more virtual as systems deliver on these consumer demands.  The mantra, “It’s your health, so take control of it,” will continue to inform healthcare delivery models.


Jason Merkley, Brookings Health System: The greatest opportunity is collaboration within and amongst all providers who care for and impact the patient, from the patient’s primary care provider, specialty physicians, hospital and ancillary staff to post-acute providers such as assisted living, skilled nursing, home health and everyone else in between.


The structure and business strategy associated with “collaboration” can and will have many different faces of success. That said, I think the rural market will continue to see alignment and creative partnerships between hospitals, providers and others who are continuing to search for more efficient ways to care for patients.



Fred Slunecka


Brent Phillips


Jill Fuller


Paul Hanson


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