It has been some time since I sat down to write a Fontenotes; inspiration has been hard to find in the start-again, stop-again, here-we-go-again spheres of health care, health policy, and the health of our country and world.
My malaise was broken by reading the final papers from my students at Trinity; the future looks solid and positive to me again.
I want to show you why.
This month I completed my 25th year as the Adjunct Professor for Health Law in the Department of Health Care Administration at Trinity University. My students are in their last on-campus semester before their residency and graduation with an MHA (Masters in Health Administration).
In 2.5 decades, it has been my privilege to meet hundreds of new and emerging leaders in health care (including those who graduated from Trinity 25 years ago who are currently among the leaders guiding us through the Covid crisis).
My semester requires a research paper and two challenging exams. Students get plenty of opportunities to demonstrate their learning; however, their final assignment asks for their thoughts about the future of health care and where they see themselves in that vision. I design the project so they feel free to write anything: they get their credit for submitting the paper on time; I read them after their final grades are submitted. Every year I am touched by the wisdom and caring of my exiting class.
This year’s class didn’t meet in person until this second year of their program, they are entering a field in a watershed moment, and throughout their courses, they have heard about the heavy emotional toll of the never-ceasing waves of cases (particularly here in Texas), the closing of hospitals (particularly here in Texas), and the politicization of public health (again, particularly here in Texas).
Perhaps it reflects my ennui, but this year, as I sat down after Thanksgiving with 25 essays, I expected this year’s students to be more hesitant about the field of health care administration, warier of their own future.
Instead, I heard nothing but conviction and hope. In my favorite quote of all, one student wrote, “The healthcare industry is always changing, and there is beauty in that.”
Covid has revealed the inequities of our current health care system while also teaching us that we need to prepare for new challenges from future pandemics. On both fronts, to build the resilient health care system necessary to succeed, we need leaders with the brains, and equally important, the hearts to see us through.
Rest assured that these health care leaders of tomorrow are up to the challenge. I want to leave you with the voices of the class of 2021 in your head, as they are in mine. May this bring you peace as we face this coming year together.
[the following bullets are quotes pulled from this year’s 25 “Future Papers”]
The Papers aren’t naïve- they reflect the realities of health care and the impact of Covid
- Medicine, for all its incredible work, is painfully slow to catch up to change.
- The future of healthcare is as uncertain as it has ever been.
- I often think about and discuss with friends a [better] care delivery system – but you can’t boil an ocean, and I alone cannot fix the broken system that we currently face.
- I feel this is unique about healthcare; no matter how far removed from the patients we as administrators or healthcare professionals think we are, it only takes one outside event to shatter that mindset.
- While the current future of health care is unclear, it is safe to say that there are at least academic solutions rising to the forefront of the conversation on how to solve issues.
- Changing the way we think and deliver healthcare in the US will take a lot of patience, money, and education. For these reasons, although we’ve entered an age where change is quicker to come than it has been in the past, I don’t believe that these major changes are likely to occur for another decade or two.
- My future of healthcare is less “reactive” and more “proactive.”
- The healthcare landscape in the United States is one that is continually changing. While change in healthcare often happens at a glacial pace, there are times in which change occurs rapidly, and with that, policy and lawmakers must be able to change and adapt.
The students of 2021 are committed to their future patients:
- Overall, I look to the future and see people looking at health as a building block rather than an obstacle. Is that not why we are all here? To give patients their health back so they can live their life to their fullest abilities.
- I hope people can feel that the hospitals are there to be a support in times of crisis, and that is what I strive to achieve in my career… anything I can do to help facilitate care that is trustworthy, equitable, and in the best interest of the patient is what I am excited to be involved in.
- What I can do is align the values and goals of the organization I work for [to provide] patients the quality of care they deserve.
- Population health and patient-centered healthcare will become the norm as we begin to embrace the feeling of change brought about by the pandemic and not take the easy route out and go back to ‘the way it’s always been.
- In the future of healthcare, I would hope it would be described as one word: patient-centered.
- The future is a time where I imagine healthcare to regain its simple vision: to do no harm and serve the community.
- I will ensure that teams I work with and all those I encounter as an administrator are aligned and are constantly working to achieve a shared vision of improving the health of those within our community through care value.
- Considering all the issues that will surely change in our future, I think my role as a healthcare administrator is to be an enabler of positive change. All of these issues drew me to the field of healthcare because I want to be someone who helps better these issues so that providers can provide better quality care to those we do it all for- the patients.
Social Determinants of Health and inequities are a driving concern:
- Addressing the social determinants of health will take significant upstream effort rather than throwing money towards downstream efforts.
- I would love to see care for marginalized groups be improved. There are many Americans who have developed a significant distrust of the health care environment to provide adequate care for them and their families.
- A person’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation should not determine the quality or level of care that they are able to receive.
- As the population continues to age, so will our ability to care more effectively for them.
- The pandemic highlighted mass health disparities and inequalities. This knowledge will help the healthcare workforce going forward to tailor better care to the communities that they serve.
- There will always be rich and poor, revenue concerns and legislation to be argued over. What should never be in question is the legitimacy of someone’s right to health and for them to receive care without sinking them financially. Our nation is too advanced to be denying families the care that can prevent so much harm.
These students see the potential of innovation in improving health:
- I would love to dive into figuring out a way [how] our communities can get the care they need, and providers can get the information required to thrive in their jobs.
- [What I] desperately want to see is the implementation of universal health data… The red tape, how it hurts me! If Target can tell if someone is pregnant based on their shopping history, why doesn’t my physician have access to data that will help her keep track of my health?
- All in all, there are some exciting changes going on in health care. Many of those changes are happening as we speak and will continue to grow and evolve in the future. Some changes have not happened yet, though based on predictive trends and analyses, they will be coming in the next decade or two.
- To achieve this change, we need a willingness to listen, a passion for innovation, and an atmosphere of teamwork between provider and administrator.
- My prediction is by 2030; health care education will be taught in classrooms across the country starting in kindergarten. We do have “health” classes currently, but they do not start at an early age, nor do they educate kids on health care. Health care education would address how to live healthy, insurance concepts, and many other foreign topics to the modern-day health care consumer.
- In the next five to ten years, I look forward to being in the healthcare industry. I hope to be helping my organization to innovate and provide better care to the communities we serve. I entered into healthcare administration to serve others, and there may never be a fix to issues that plague our system, but it is at least worth a shot. That is my goal.
The health law Class of 2021 is up to the challenges before them:
- Just because something is complex does not mean it can’t be understood and discussed.
- As current and developing leaders in healthcare, we will have a significant responsibility to the future of healthcare in the United States. We can continue to push for change with the aspects of healthcare that do not currently work as well as they could, or we can maintain the status quo.
- I hope to be an administrator who advocates for change that is of benefit to the patient, the provider, and the system. While difficult to accomplish, the effort to achieve such a feat is a legacy that I would like to leave behind for others to observe and build upon.
- I plan to be an advocate for being part of the change.
- To facilitate change for the better is what I see myself doing in the future. I want to be working in hospital operations to make sure the organization I work for runs smoothly to help the medical staff accomplish their great work.
- Studying in this program has made my vision of future healthcare a lot more hopeful. Although some of it may not happen, I look at my classmates and know that change is coming, and we have this wonderful opportunity to help lead healthcare in a new direction.