Strong Medicine for a Broken Health Care Delivery System
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 10, 2010
Everyone would agree—our health care system is broken. It is overburdened, both over and under-utilized, and far more costly than it should be.
At the root of the problem is a titanic struggle for cost-containment between insurers and providers. As a result of this emphasis, more innovative solutions are not coming to the fore. In addition, as any payer can testify, cost-containment has been an abysmal failure.
Dr. Michael Porter of Harvard University, considered the leading authority on competitiveness, says there is a way out of this mess. Speaking at this week’s World Innovation Forum being held in New York City, he points out innovation in the science side of medicine has been astounding, but there has been little innovation on the organizational and business side. “The problem in health care is actually management ... how do we rethink about what we do?” he asks.
Porter made two key recommendations. First, he recommends a more integrated and holistic approach to the delivery of care. “Our current delivery structure is a hundred years out of date,” he says. That's because patients deal with different specialists and organizations at every level—health care delivery is essentially siloed. There needs to be more of an integrated team addressing problems. There needs to be attention throughout the lifetime of the patient—not just when he or she needs a procedure.
Second, there needs to be a greater emphasis on measurement of outcomes. Not just whether a particular surgery was successful, but the outcomes on patients' overall health and productivity. There are only a few areas, such as kidney transplants, which require documentation to federal agencies—in which outcomes are measured. Interestingly, when outcomes are measured and documented, costs drop as well. There was a dramatic drop in the costs of kidney transplants, as well as positive outcomes to these procedures since recordkeeping began in the 1980s, he pointed out. “Quality means lower cost,” he says.
As Porter demonstrated, it's time for more innovation across this dysfunctional industry, and less time spent locking horns over cost cutting.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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