Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Key Areas That Will Lower Healthcare Costs

Healthcare reform is here; at least payment reform is here. Only time will tell if we are effectively dealing with the real issues. The new bill played out in a grand theater of politics, but the issue driving it was, and still is, economic. We can't continue to afford the system we have in place. Healthcare costs are growing at too fast a rate to sustain in the future. Our system is totally focused on fixing people who are broken and not effectively dealing with promoting better health in the first place. If we are to succeed in changing our healthcare delivery system and ensuring its economic viability for the future, I see three areas that must be addressed, and soon.

1) Create Value- Lowering costs is only part of the equation. We must provide effective and efficient care. I know I am repeating myself but this is what "quality first and finances follows" means. The best way to create value is to do a better job in the first place. By eliminating medical errors we are improving patient outcomes while we are saving money. We can't make care totally error free but we can make it harm free. We need to focus on any unexplained clinical variation and eliminate it. We need to create a country of all Top 100 hospitals.

2) Coordinate Care- Currently our system is disjointed with various type of care providers really not talking with each other. With Electronic Medical Records becoming more commonplace, this will improve. But currently we have many gaps in our system between healthcare providers that leads to duplicate testing and dropped follow up. Patients with strong primary care providers can do well, but those that rely on hospital EDs or multiple providers for their primary care just go from one medical crisis to another.

3) Promote Prevention and Wellness- We are the number one country in the world for taking care of critically ill patients but we do not fare so well in overall health status of our nation. That is because we focus all of our resources on taking care of the sick and not enough on prevention and wellness. Sure we have flu vaccines and we wiped out polio long ago, but what about healthy lifestyles. Obesity and diabetes are our new epidemics. Money allocated to these areas will certainly not have an immediate return on investment, but the investment is still necessary to turn the current tide and save on future hospitalizations.

Hopefully we are in a new era that will begin with healthcare payment reform and evolve into really addressing the underlying issues that are driving our current system broke.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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