By Paula Erwin-Toth MSN, RN, CWOCN, CNS, FAAN
As we embark on our journey into 2017, many are concerned about the road ahead. A new President and GOP dominated Congress have promised to make health care reform a priority. There have been numerous articles and opinion pieces written about the path these changes will take and what they will mean to patients, caregivers, and clinicians alike.
In the short term, my best advice is to follow science fiction author Doug Adams' advice in his book Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The overlarge letters on the front page of the guide state unequivocally:
Whatever your political persuasion, most health care providers and their patients have very legitimate fear of what will occur if the Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare) is suddenly eliminated. Millions of individuals will all at once be left without insurance coverage either due to rising co-pays or overall increased costs. Some fear complete denial of affordable coverage due to pre-existing conditions. These concerns are very real and the changes to the Affordable Care Act may happen sooner than we think.
Right now, not knowing is especially difficult. Patients may be asking themselves, "Should I begin this expensive treatment that I may have to stop due to costs? What if my provider decides they are unable to see patients who are not insured or are under-insured?"
Providers are worried about coverage for intensive, high tech materials making an improvement in patient outcomes should there be significant changes to the Affordable Care Act.
A few hospitals and agencies have already begun laying off staff ranging form nurse educators to wound specialists. Uncertainty in a time of transition is understandable. Reactions that have not been well thought out can cause more harm than good.
Tips for Navigating Uncertain Times for Health Care
1) Don't Panic.
Panic mode does not lead to clear, logical thinking. Decisions are made in haste and are rarely beneficial. Following are a few ways health care providers can become involved in ensuring that patients retain access to the care and treatments that they need.
2) Create an Action Plan
Gather information from reputable sources. Learn to discern truth from lies. "Fake news" has taken on a new life of its own and is potentially very dangerous. Based on what you find out, determine what the timeline for implementation is. What will your role be? How will this affect your patients and their family caregivers? Decide what you can control and what you can't.
3) Actively Intervene
Contact your elected officials—technically they work for us. Be proactive. Do not wait to speak up. Let them know your concerns and challenges as health care providers. Be brief but specific, and try using case studies to draw their attention and remind them that you and your patients are their constituents. At the end of the day, elected officials are always looking to the next election. Show your elected officials how their actions are affecting their constituents (voters). Recommend a solution. Communicate via a variety of method: their website, Facebook, forums, phone calls, and hand-written letters. Encourage your patients, clients, and caregivers to go online and to write letters as well.
This may seem daunting but as health care providers we see the monumental challenges our patients face as we endeavor to provide them with state of the art health care to improve their outcomes and reduce overall costs via preventive measures and early, effective interventions. Programs that prevent wound complications and educate patients and family are key to saving funds by reducing costs and improving outcomes - including the quality of a patient's life.
Happy New Year 2017, and remember: "Don't Panic"!
About The Author
Paula Erwin-Toth has over 30 years of experience in wound, ostomy and continence care. She is a well-known author, lecturer and patient advocate who is dedicated to improving the care of people with wounds, ostomies and incontinence in the US and abroad.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.