Seven Steps to Revolutionize Healthcare
Our healthcare crisis can serve as the catalyst to implement visionary reforms to ensure the health of every New Mexican.
Our New Mexico children are in peril today. Ventilators breathe for children who endure serious respiratory challenges. Without them, conditions become life-threatening very quickly, as we learned during the early phases of COVID-19 when ICUs filled up, ventilators were in short supply, and we are now once again on the brink of crisis standards of care.
While the media bombards us with clutter, the important messages that the public need to know fail to break through and our state’s healthcare system faces huge challenges. The lack of ventilators is only the tip of the iceberg.
I am sounding an alarm because all New Mexicans are at risk from unprecedented physical and mental health challenges. I am also spreading the word: we in New Mexico know how to fix our past and current challenges to save many lives. As a healthcare professional, I have seven important recommendations.
- Join the “revolution” – The New Mexico Human Services Department Primary Care Council is revolutionizing care with its plan to provide timely access to care to every New Mexican. This is historic.
- Expand capacity – New Mexico healthcare agencies and hospitals collaborate to maximize capacity (shared beds, staff, best practices, etc.). However, three years of unrelenting crisis caused a great resignation, resulting in low healthcare staffing and health professionals suffering greater rates of physical and mental health challenges themselves. Safeguarding our workforce is more important than ever.
- Make school-based healthcare accessible to every child – With more than 800 public schools, we have the challenge and opportunity to fully resource school-based health using proven models such as “Hub and Spoke.” This strategy, created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and piloted in San Miguel County, increases capacity to serve 100 percent of children and students.
- Start early to grow our health workforce – Semillas de Salud (Seeds of Health) is a New Mexico-born, nationally acclaimed regional “grow your own program” in middle and high school which is leading through higher education to licensure and certification. Our state’s health professional education system must also do two things. First, we need to be training a lot more future health professionals to serve their communities. Second, we need to support and incentivize existing health professionals to serve as mentors, a required component of academic graduation.
- Ensure vital services for surviving and thriving, especially healthcare – Strengthen New Mexico State University’s 100% New Mexico initiative as it surveys New Mexicans about access to care and barriers, documenting disparities and adverse social determinants of health. Current county surveys reveal that in some counties, 30 percent to 50 percent of families find it challenging to access healthcare, facing a long list of barriers including cost and transportation. The 100% New Mexico initiative, working in alignment with community partners, local government and the University of New Mexico’s Community Health and HEROs program, collaborate to build access to 10 vital services detailed in the book 100% Community: Ensuring 10 Vital Services for Surviving and Thriving.
- Use technology to strengthen the state’s capacity to provide healthcare – Innovation awaits, including remote patient monitoring, telehealth, virtual forums connecting health professionals with one another, and apps for accessing answers and getting support.
- It’s everyone’s job to create health – Engage the public in primary prevention. Each county can invest upstream to prevent problems before they occur, including addressing the root causes of our costly challenges such as adverse childhood experiences and substance use disorders with mass media, curated social media, good old-fashioned “neighbors helping neighbors” outreach and peer health education.
While the seven recommendations may sound daunting, be assured that the research that supports them and the plan to implement them exists today. Visionary leaders in the healthcare community, including partners in higher education and public education, know what to do. All that awaits are the resources to align our work across the state and take coordinated action on the regional and county levels in a multi-year infrastructure-building, professional development, and public awareness project. Our people need a groundbreaking and game-changing new state strategy now more than ever in this era of disruption and health crises. Join us.
Catch Matt Probst discussing this blog post on the Richard Eeds radio show.
This article was first published in a different form in the Santa Fe New Mexican.