Key Stakeholders and Health Reform – The Healthcare Professionals View

If you could isolate the voice of healthcare professionals (HCPs) around the world, what would you want to know about? This was the question which was discussed when Daniel Ghinn of Creation Healthcare, and Matthew Holt of Health 2.0 came together earlier this year.

The question they arrived at?

How do HCP opinions on health reform differ between the United Kingdom and the United States; each a nation facing complex reorganization of their public health care service?

As Chief Innovation Officer and always seeking to develop new specialist online research techniques, it was my pleasure to be invited to investigate whether this question can be answered using publicly available social media conversations among healthcare professionals.

In this first article of a series, we will examine how HCPs refer to key figures in health reform. The culmination of which is an upcoming global study about UK & US health reform based on analysis of conversations among healthcare professionals, which will be launched at the Health 2.0 conference later this year.

Health and Politics 

We all know that good health is fundamental to our existence as human beings. Our very quality of life can also depend largely on whether we are worried about the symptoms and signals within our bodies, or about the wellbeing of our loved ones, and perhaps above all – how we are going to manage the cost of ensuring these needs are met.

Certainly, the cost of health care is an issue that elected officials understand to be a political career maker, or breaker. If they get it right, they are the heroes of the nation. If they get it wrong, they are the villains. If they don’t reform health, they are considered without empathy; if they do reform health, they will inevitably be persecuted for not doing it properly. Health reform and politics are connected and may always be – for as long as we need health care.

Let’s take a look at some key figures in health reform, as mentioned by healthcare professionals since the last Health 2.0 conference in September 2013. What’s in a name? Obamacare versus PPACA The now famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) ‘Obamacare’, is a term recognized by most Americans, if not around the world. This significant attempt at reforming health provision for the citizens of the United States of America, is intrinsically linked with its protagonist – Barack Obama. In Figure 1 we see that he is the focus of a majority of HCP conversations about health reform. His name is connected with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, such that it will be forever known as Obama’s initiative. F1 Figure 1 – Key Figures in US health reform as mentioned by HCPs since September 2013 (Source: Creation Pinpoint) On the other side of the pond, the United Kingdom’s national health service (NHS) has long stood for a principle of ‘free healthcare for all’, yet is also facing unsustainable pressure to care for more patients while budgets are frozen or declining. However, in this case, the country’s Prime Minister David Cameron is not always connected with the reformation and it is viewed as more of a party-wide initiative. We do however see through the eyes of healthcare professionals that Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Health) takes the brunt of focus for positive or negative opinion. f2 Figure 2 – Key Figures in UK health reform as mentioned by HCPs since September 2013 (Source: Creation Pinpoint) Yet other individuals have a role to play in shaping the conversation about health reform.

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Figure 3 – Kathleen Sebelius received attention from HCPs on the 31st October 2013 (Source: Creation Pinpoint)

No such thing as bad press?

When we examine key figures over time (See Figure 3), we can determine that since last year’s Health 2.0 conference there are key moments where certain people have made the headlines. For example, Kathleen Sebelius found herself to be the center of attention when her appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee coincided with the very same Healthcare.gov website technical problems that she was there to report on. f4

Figure 4 – When Darrell Issa captured the moment that healthcare.gov and Kathleen Sebelius were in split screen, a number of HCPs tweeted and retweeted the post. (Source: https://twitter.com/DarrellIssa/status/395573026319638528)

To her credit, she also used social media to provide something of an update, which some HCPs found worthy of support.

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Figure 5 – Kathleen Sebelius used Twitter to provide a positive note on the technical improvements from her team. (Source: https://twitter.com/SecSebelius/status/395997931938934784) In the UK, it was

Jeremy Hunt who found he was the focus of an article by Oncology consultant surgeon J Meirion Thomas and Dr Kailash Chand, deputy chairman of the BMA council. They questioned whether Hunt’s proposals to charge short-term visitors using the NHS are justifiable.

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Figure 6 – J Meirion Thomas and Dr Kailash Chand posted opinion pieces about Jeremy Hunt’s ‘health tourists’ concept for health reform. (Source: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/23/jeremy-hunt-health-tourism-nhs-visitors)

Herein we see that health reform is a complex topic, with a number of perspectives. Health reform and politics are inextricably linked, whether there is a reform underway or not. Key stakeholders and names associated with a reform are in for close scrutiny by healthcare professionals – if they get it right they will be considered heroic, however if they fail they will be condemned in public social media channels.

In the coming weeks, we will discover more about the healthcare professional’s point of view as we review opposing drivers in health reform.

For those who attend the Health 2.0 conference, you will also have access to the study. For now, why not subscribe to the Health 2.0 blog and receive weekly updates as we unpick the differences between health reform in the UK and the USA.

If you are not already attending the conference, it is not to late to register.

About the author: Paul Grant (@paulgrant) is Chief Innovation Officer with Creation Healthcare. At the Health 2.0 fall conference, he will present research conducted using Creation Pinpoint, a service for analyzing healthcare professional opinion expressed through public social media.

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