The current healthcare environment is complex and interconnected. Organizations have to remain innovative to improve access, cost, and quality outcomes. Large hospital systems or networks are formed as a response to mounting pressure to provide optimal patient care and share risk. This paper examines United Healthcare’s readiness to address changing healthcare needs of consumers and its strategic plan for growth, nurse staffing, resource management, and patient satisfaction. It also includes a comparison between this hospital network and the Singapore Airlines Case study.
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Readiness to Address Citizen’s Healthcare Needs
United Healthcare (UH) is a leading diversified network operating in 50 US states through two platforms: Optum and UnitedHealthcare. Among the issues that will impact healthcare providers in the next decade include access, coverage, quality, value-based care, and cost. The network, through its diversified platforms, supports interactions between providers and patients to enhance quality and access to care. It uses healthcare informatics to serve hospitals, consumers, vulnerable groups, and insurers and provides “innovative end-to-end products” for different healthcare problems (United Health Group, 2019, p. 2). UnitedHealthcare includes employer-sponsored health benefits and packages for the growing senior segment. Healthcare intelligence implemented in the Optum platform enables data-driven innovation and research, which allows United to offer better care at a lower cost.
UH’s strategy is anchored in offering digital healthcare services to grow, manage clinical staff, consolidate resources, and enhance the customer experience. According to the United Health Group (2019), the Optum business segment contributes to improved network performance through optimal quality, access, and affordability. Data analytics is central to UH’s strategic plan.
UH’s fastest-growing segment is Optum that seeks to tap into data-driven insights to enhance provider collaboration and efficiency. Through this platform, the company has expanded its network and product range to include in-house drug supply services (OptumRx), primary care, and electronic health records. Optum serves four out of five American hospitals, over 67,000 pharmacies, 10,000 physicians/practices, and health agencies in 36 US states (United Health Group, 2019). UH has also leveraged UnitedHealthcare to grow. Currently, its networks comprise about 1.3 million physicians and 6,200 facilities, offering different health benefit plans to consumers (United Health Group, 2019). Through the two platforms, UH has expanded its operations to 130 countries globally.
UH’s aim of offering accessible, quality healthcare products at affordable rates are achieved through a nurse-led care management program. The HouseCalls initiative is available to Medicare Advantage consumers (United Health Group, 2019). The nurses conduct physical exams, patient education, environmental risk assessment, and follow-ups during home visits. They help link clients with behavioral health and dietary specialists to promote preventive care. About 1,200 RNs working under the HouseCalls program make about 860,000 visits annually (United Health Group, 2019). UH’s Center for Nursing Advancement is dedicated to the recruitment and retention of nurses as its primary care workforce. It provides professional development opportunities to promote nursing best practices, leadership, and research.
UH uses technology to modernize the healthcare system. Its core resources include in-house solutions – products and services – and staff. Its integrated platforms, such as Optum, enable the organization to manage its health services and networks and provide offerings tailored to individual patients. Thus, UH’s digital healthcare strategy is comparable to vertical integration, where a multitude of pharmacies, physicians, practices, and facilities rely on Optum and UnitedHealthcare to offer integrated care to patients in a seamless manner. Clinical insights gained from market information are utilized to optimize care quality, lower medical costs, and enhance the patient experience (United Health Group, 2019). It employs visualization software and analytics to coordinate resources and enhance network collaboration.
UH’s digital healthcare solutions and nurse-led care programs help improve the patient experience. Communication within the network is strengthened through the sharing of real-time data among facilities, practices, and pharmacies to address consumers’ health needs. UH’s plan coverage for employers and Medicare beneficiaries is broad. It has over 1100 value-based care arrangements that promote customer wellbeing and reward facilities with higher quality scores (United Health Group, 2019). Leveraging digital health experience has helped UH reduce costs and increase healthcare access, contributing to patient satisfaction.
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Comparison with Singapore Airlines
Like UH, Singapore Airlines’ business philosophy is founded on quality. The carrier has reorganized its infrastructure to focus on in-flight service excellence as a competitive strategy. In contrast, UH leverages on integrated digital healthcare to improve quality, affordability, and access. Human resource practices also differ between the two organizations. UH, through the Center for Nursing Advancement, hires and retains RNs by providing career advancement and ongoing development opportunities for quality improvement. In comparison, Singapore Airlines’ approach involves competitive recruitment and training of youthful, talented staff on in-flight service, but it lacks a retention strategy. The carrier’s work management program helps increase leadership diversity to serve customers of different ethnicities. In contrast, UH serves specific healthcare needs through networks of local facilities, pharmacies, and physician practices.
Cultural Issues Influencing the Practices
The oriental culture is reflected in Singapore Airlines’ strategy for growth, staffing, resource management, and customer satisfaction. Attention to detail, hierarchical orientation, being caring, and conservatism are qualities associated with people of Asian heritage. Singapore Airlines offers courteous and quality service that is consistent with the cultural norms of Asia, allowing it to grow into new markets. The airline projects an image of quality by measuring service excellence (consumer satisfaction) based on passenger complaints and compliments. Its use of technology for resource management and staffing is reflective of the Asian culture’s emphasis on efficiency. The airline hires trains, and develops youthful, talented staff to drive its future growth.
United Health Group. (2019). Facts: 2018 Q4. Web.