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Healthcare must focus on vulnerable populations

The Affordable Care Act has brought value-based care to trend. Today's hospitals and healthcare leaders are being challenged more than ever to provide care with maximum value for patients, by achieving the best outcomes at the lowest cost.

The shift away from supply-driven systems to patient-centered systems is not new. However, before ACA implementation the fee-for-service model was the sole method of reimbursing providers for healthcare, meaning that physicians and organizations had incentives to "do" more — order more tests, see more patients, conduct more procedures.

The antiquated model is slowly being phased out and paving the way for a new emphasis on standard, high-quality care, but at the same time there is still a ways to go. A discussion at the American College of Healthcare Executives' 2015 Congress brought to the forefront access issues and care disparities for vulnerable populations.

"We definitely need to stop the bleeding and be proactive to increase access to care for underserved populations," said panelist Jamahal Boyd, director of multicultural competence and inclusion at Mercy Health in suburban Philadelphia. To effectively meet the challenges of the issue, he told attendees that healthcare leaders need to provide "a quality of care that's standard but that is delivered in a customized way."

Focusing on inclusion means truly understanding the unique needs of diverse groups of patients. In many cases caregivers may have to undergo training to allow them to handle certain parts of minority care, such as becoming comfortable with learning a patient's sexual history regardless of sexuality or gender.

For effective implementation of value-based care it is imperative that healthcare leaders truly listen to what their patients are saying. Using applications like Patient Approved, which provides real-time feedback from patients to doctors and hospitals, is one way of achieving better outcomes.