Community hospitals in California and throughout the nation are feeling the pinch from a host of technological, social and economic forces that are changing how they do business.
And with the federal health care overhaul - which includes reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements - many community hospitals are facing an even less certain future.
Consolidations have helped keep some independent hospitals afloat in the short run. But others that haven’t joined with larger chains have been forced to close their doors.
So what’s a community hospital to do?
“We wanted to create a national conversation that was as inclusive as possible,” Rachel Maguire, research director at the Institute, says of the web-based game that’s open to anyone with access to a computer and an interest in playing.
“We’re seeing conversations taking place between an architect and a computer scientist and a registered nurse, " says Maguire. "So it’s not just the quantity of people who play but it’s the diversity of backgrounds they bring to conversation.”
And that, she says, produces a very different conversation about what’s possible when re-imaging the future of the community hospital.
So far, Maguire says, 500 people nationwide were registered to play in the 24-hour game that started at 9 a.m. PST on Jan. 8. By the time the game had been underway for only six hours, the participants already had offered up 2,000 ideas.
Among the questions under consideration:
- In the next decade, can the community hospital compete with specialty hospitals or with highly personalized consumer technology?
- How will new technologies like tele-presence help hospitals provide relevant care in a world where fewer services require stepping foot inside a clinical environment?
- Can we re-purpose and re-imagine the existing hospital infrastructure for the health and wellness needs of the 21st century?
At the end of the competition, the Institute of the Future will use its analytical tools to sift through and identify key insights that they'll highlight in a report for the California Healthcare Foundation, which sponsored the game.
Maguire says for the public - essentially anyone who plays the game, whether for five minutes or five hours - "they'll get access to a blog post where they can publish high-level findings and interesting insights" that will further the conversation about the future of community hospitals.