It will pay to sort through weeds on health reform

Guest Column:
Jim Purcell
Over the years, the American health care system lost its way. Seduced by miraculous technology and pharmacology, and the billions of dollars that could be earned, our health care system geared up to perform miracles, mostly in the areas of traumatic injury or serious illness. The theme here is you get what you pay for, and as a result, today we can perform miracles for those who are seriously injured or ill. More

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OP-ED / LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

It will pay to sort through weeds on health reform

Guest Column:
Jim Purcell
Posted 10/28/13

Over the years, the American health care system lost its way. Seduced by miraculous technology and pharmacology, and the billions of dollars that could be earned, our health care system geared up to perform miracles, mostly in the areas of traumatic injury or serious illness. The theme here is you get what you pay for, and as a result, today we can perform miracles for those who are seriously injured or ill.

Our health care system does not, however, do well at all regarding our overall population’s health, wellness, preventive care, chronic care and interventions. As a nation, we are becoming more and more unhealthy, and yet we use more and more health care resources, largely without lasting effect.

American health care quality ranks 37th in the world, trailing countries like Morocco, Costa Rica and Saudi Arabia. Deaths due to avoidable medical errors in the United States are roughly equivalent to a fully loaded Boeing 747 crashing every other day, all year, with all aboard perishing.

This should alarm business decision-makers who face tough health care choices in the coming years. Although CEOs are pulled in many directions and often don’t have the time to delve deeply into matters, this is the exception to the rule. Chief executives must understand the real causes of our broken health care system in order to navigate (and take advantage of) the changes mandated by Obamacare.

True health care reform requires the following:

1. To reform health care, we have to reform how we deliver it.

2. To reform the delivery of health care, we have to change how we pay for it.

3. To change how we pay for health care, we need agreed-upon measures of quality of care and outcomes.

4. To measure quality of care and outcomes, we need interoperable electronic medical records.

• Delivery. We must reform the fundamental delivery of health care. Otherwise, health care premiums are likely to continue to double every seven or so years while still delivering poor quality and outcomes. As a CEO, you can see that won’t work for your company, nor could your company get away delivering that kind of service to your customers.

Unfortunately, our current health care is delivered tribally, as hospitals operate with virtually no communication with primary-care physicians, surgeons and other specialists.

How should health care be delivered in the future? It starts by integrating today’s piecemeal system.

A coordinated, integrated health care system focused on (and paid for) good outcomes and quality of care will result in substantially less waste and fewer errors. In the most appropriate setting, a “quarterback” should oversee all care via a digital communication system that ties all caregivers together and makes the patient’s entire medical record available as and where needed.

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