Everybody complains about health care, but how would you fix it? That’s the question being asked in an online game organized by the Palo Alto-based Institute for the Future right now.
The game is one of several “collaborative forecasting” games housed in the Foresight Engine created by the Institute for the Future. The goal is to tap into the knowledge and idea base that exists outside of traditional channels for a given industry.
“For over 100 years, the hospital has been the core of our healthcare system, and a pillar of every community—the central hub where people enter and leave this world, and where scientific discoveries become life saving procedures,” states the blog entry that sets up the premise for this game. “But in the last couple decades, technological, social and economic forces have chipped away at this model. As these trends continue—making traditional clinical environments punishingly expensive to run, and increasingly less necessary for many healthcare needs—the future of the community hospital is uncertain.”
A pre-game challenge asks contributors to “construct a 21st Century safety-net system that is fair, economically sustainable and delivers high-quality emergency care services to all in need.”
The scenario described by the game is certainly challenging.
“Emergency departments (EDs) and trauma centers are closing. From 1990 to 2009, the number of hospitals with EDs in non-rural areas declined 27%, from 2446 to 1779. ED closures have strained the capacity of operating EDs, resulting in overcrowding and patient boarding. A 2006 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study reported that ‘ambulances are turned away from emergency departments once every minute on average and patients in many areas may wait hours or even days for a hospital bed.’
“What’s more, many of the so-called safety net hospitals that serve the vulnerable populations face significant reductions in state and local government subsidies and Medicaid payments. These reductions in revenue threaten their future financial health and, thus, their ability to keep the doors of their Emergency Departments open. The IOM sums up the reality of the nation’s emergency medical system as “overburdened, underfunded, and highly fragmented.
“We see it ripe for change.”