I celebrated the New Year with my family at my childhood home in Southern California. My parents, both in their 80s, still live in the house where I grew up, which is not designed for older adults with multiple health issues. My visit home was wonderful, but also highlighted — in a real and concrete way — just how difficult our health care system can be to navigate, especially for older adults and those with complex health conditions. Virtual health and web portals have made connecting with health care providers easier for some people, but, for others, such as my parents, the new technology can be daunting. A lot can be lost in a telephone or video visit.
I saw firsthand what happens when a complex patient, in this case, my dad, doesn’t have a relationship with a good primary care physician and specialists, along with clinical team members who know him and his medical history. Generally, things were a mess. Dad went to an emergency department twice over the two weeks I visited. Both visits could have been avoided if he was receiving the care he needed and requested. Instead, he was bounced around and sent to the hospital for emergency care — with all the risks of COVID and influenza, not to mention the wait time, stress, and expense.
My father’s experience highlighted for me — yet again — how far we must go to improve our health care system and its foundation of primary care. It also affirmed to me that the Quality Institute’s current focus areas are exactly where they need to be. The pandemic, unfortunately, will continue to dominate our health system and resources. Its lasting impact heightens the need for us to address the priority areas listed below to enable our communities to rebound and our residents to live their healthiest lives.
Here’s our focus for 2022:
- Building greater support and investment in high quality, comprehensive Primary Care, which includes mental health services, oral health, and reproductive health. Primary Care is the foundation for our entire health care system and must be thought of as a common good, accessible to all. This means increasing our investments in primary care, especially in under-resourced communities and ensuring network adequacy.
- Developing and supporting health policies, systems, and communities that enable people to age with dignity in their homes and communities for as long as possible. We plan to strengthen our COYL (Conversation of Your Life) initiative to promote advance care planning, in multiple languages, cultures, and religions, to enable people to share their wishes for how they want to live and age. Through our Mayors Wellness Campaign, we are expanding our focus on the mental health of our communities and how local leaders, social service providers, and residents can address this growing need.
- Designing a plan to enable New Jersey to recruit, train, and retain a diverse health care workforce for the future. A key takeaway from the valuable stakeholder feedback we received in drafting “Emerging From COVID-19: An Action Plan for a Healthier State” was the need to make systemic changes in the way we encourage people to pursue careers in health care, provide educational opportunities, grow career pathways, pay living wages, and ensure a good quality of life for the current and future professionals who serve our health and social services systems. This year, we are undertaking a project to identify how to track, in real-time, the makeup of our health care work force and how to be more responsive to the needs of health care workers. Contact us if you’d like to be involved in the project.
- Supporting Nurture NJ, the NJ Maternal Care Quality Collaborative, Regional Health Hubs, and NJ FamilyCare in their Maternal Child Health focused work to address racism and achieve equity in health care. Our work includes consumer engagement and education, addressing quality and social determinants of health, and changing payment and delivery models.
Our list of priorities is substantial but our partnerships with all of you will propel this work. This year is also a meaningful one for us — it’s our 25th Anniversary. We are proud of our shared accomplishments, energized for the future, and look forward to our progress in 2022 and beyond.