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Healthcare Trend Watch — We Need to Prepare for New Health Risks

This post is taken from an article by Robin L. Rose, MBA VP, Healthcare Resource Group, HealthStream, where she looks ahead at the coming year, with an eye to big picture trends that could have a significant impact on how we provide and experience care.

Extreme Weather Prevalence Necessitates Readiness

Things such as hotter temperatures, poorer air quality, mass casualty shootings, and an increased number of extreme weather events have healthcare organizations scrambling to adjust to a “new normal.” Events over the past several years have taught us that we may not be as prepared as we should be.

  • After a devastating storm hit Houston in 2001, Texas Medical Center rebuilt with a “hazard maintenance plan.” The organization built its own heat and power utility plant to eliminate dependence on the Houston utility grid. It was also built at an elevation to avoid flooding. When Hurricane Harvey hit in late 2017, the medical center remained almost fully operational (Blumenthal & Seervai, 2018).
  • New York City’s Bellevue Hospital was forced to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012. In the new construction plan, the electrical and mechanical systems were located on higher floors, and generators were added to reduce dependence on the city grid (Blumenthal & Seervai, 2018).

 

Catastrophic Events Could Strain Health System

  • The impact of floods, droughts, and heat waves also has consequences for our population. Public health officials are calling for new measures to help people stay healthy. Here are some of their worries (National Geographic, 2018):

  • Extreme weather can trigger power outages that cripple healthcare organizations and transportation systems.
  • Occupational hazards, such as risk of heat stroke, may rise, especially impacting farmers and construction workers.
  • Hotter days, more rain, and higher humidity may produce more ticks, which spread infectious diseases such as Lyme disease.
  • Trauma from floods, droughts, and heat waves can lead to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and suicide.
  • More heat may mean longer allergy seasons and more respiratory disease.
  • Mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever are likely to become more common.
  • Rising sea levels could threaten freshwater supplies for people living in low-lying areas.

According to a recent article put out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “The severity of these health risks will depend on the ability of public health and safety systems to address or prepare for these changing threats, as well as factors such as an individual’s behavior, age, gender, and economic status” (EPA, 2017). A lot will depend on each community’s ability to adapt to change.

Additional Healthcare Trends to Watch

Other trends identified in this article include:

  • Amazon is becoming a major disrupter in many areas of healthcare
  • Healthcare costs are becoming scarier than the illness itself.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is dramatically changing healthcare.
  • We are finally addressing population health.
  • CMS is changing course.
  • We need more joy in the work of healthcare.
  • The nursing shortage is getting worse.
  • Physicians are in short supply too.
  • Digital healthcare organizations are emerging.

References

Blumenthal, David M.D.; Seervai, Shanoor; “To Be High Performing, the U.S. Health System Will Need to Adapt to Climate Change,” April 18, 2018, https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2018/be-high-performing-us-health-system-will-need-adapt-climate-change

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Climate Impacts on Human Health,” January 19, 2017, https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-human-health_.html

Download the complete article here.

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