August 20, 2019
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Five Challenges Facing Healthcare Systems in the Southwest

Major Issues in the Management and Operations of Southwest Healthcare Systems

  • Rising Costs of Healthcare Delivery
  • Compliance with Stringent Regulations
  • Adequate Training and Credentialing of Healthcare Providers
  • Keeping up Technological Advances
  • Maintaining Ethical Standards

Many challenges facing healthcare systems in the southwest may be attributed to the fact that access to healthcare has always been a hot button issue on the national level regardless of political leadership or economic conditions in the country. Providing quality care to a diverse demographic with broad-ranging health issues is a challenge that tests the public and private sector even more so in regions such as the southwest where the median age tends to be older than in the rest of the country. It is an issue that requires the commitment of massive financial, technological and human resources to ensure convenient and equal access to critical care, wellness, and preventive strategies as well as the management of chronic ailments.

Related resource: Top 20 Graduate Programs in Healthcare Management in the West

1. Compliance with Stringent Regulations

The Affordable Care Act sought to address the issue of access to quality healthcare for all, but it also ushered in a host of legislative initiatives, adding regulatory pressure on the healthcare sector. Compliance with established standards of care, staff credentialing and training requirements, and operational best practices takes up much of a provider’s resources. Some facilities and individual providers have responded to the challenge through collaborations and partnerships to share resources and to achieve operational efficiencies.

2. Rising Costs of Healthcare Delivery

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report that healthcare spending rose by 3.9 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. Total volume crossed the $3.5 trillion mark, equating to a per-individual cost of $10,739 compared to $10,348 in the previous year. The increase in healthcare costs may be attributed to a combination of factors, including compliance, technology upgrades and changes in the compensation structures.

3. Adequate Training and Credentialing of Healthcare Providers

In the southwest region, the demographics of the healthcare employee pool is changing rapidly. For entry-level positions, workers are getting younger partly because of the availability of medical and vocational training in high schools and community colleges. This is a positive development for the sector as highly experienced workers age, retire or transition to less stressful careers. It is up to healthcare providers to ensure compliance with minimum standards, and most do by facilitating access to advanced training programs and providing incentives to employees to pursue advanced training.

4. Keeping up with Technological Advances

Technological advances in electronic health records collection, maintenance and retrieval have improved communication and collaboration among providers, leading to improved outcomes and allowing patients greater involvement in their own health-related decisions. However, providers have grappled with issues of privacy protection especially as healthcare legislation has codified the privacy of information in the healthcare setting. Introducing equipment upgrades, new software applications and other technological resources are expensive and will always require retraining of the staff.

5. Ethics in Healthcare Operations and Decision-making

Ethics play an important role in defining operational processes in the healthcare system in the southwest. Ethical concerns inform research priorities and procedures as they should, but they can also seriously constrain the pace and direction of studies related to critical issues. In addition to federal guidelines, providers are required to adhere to standards set by their own professional organizations and other governing agencies. Lapses in ethical compliance will cost healthcare systems in terms of penalties, lawsuits and professional integrity.

The healthcare system is patient-focused, and its ultimate goal is to facilitate positive patient encounters and optimal health outcomes. At the same time, the system also recognizes the important role of healthcare staff in ensuring that providers continue to thrive in the high-pressure environment. Various challenges facing healthcare systems in the southwest are due to regulatory issues, technological advances and other factors, but the system has found viable strategies to cope, including collaboration, cooperation and resource sharing.