Healthcare Cost Relief is Hiding in Plain Sight

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , April 13, 2011

In the overheated rhetoric surrounding the state of healthcare in America, there is one concept nearly everyone can agree on: Costs are too high. The trouble, of course, comes in finding a way to get those costs to come down.

I'm convinced we've been looking in the wrong places. Real relief from the pain of high healthcare costs won't come from financial juggling. Rather, it will come from improving health, reducing hospital-based harm, and delivering better quality care.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Tuesday a $1 billion patient safety initiative aimed at doing just that. The Partnership for Patients program aims to save lives and reduce hospital readmissions by 20% over the next three years. It also has a goal of reducing hospital-based harm by 40%. Along the way the program could save as much as $35 billion in healthcare costs.

During the rollout of PFP, Donald Berwick, MD, who heads the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, talked about the systemic change in hospital processes that will be necessary to achieve these goals. He noted that the effort will require the clinicians, physicians, nurses, and hospital leadership to work together to reduce medical errors.

What struck me about PFP is how program announcements often exist in a parallel universe in Washington, D.C. While Berwick and Sebelius were touting PFP as a program made possible by the Accountable Care Act, congressional staffers were back in their offices reviewing yet another proposal to defund the ACA.

Paul Ryan, (R- WI) who chairs the House budget committee, has presented a budget proposal to reduce the federal deficit by trillions of dollars. His plan would privatize Medicare, convert Medicaid to a community block grant program, and eliminate any funding for the implementation of healthcare reform.

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3 comments on "Healthcare Cost Relief is Hiding in Plain Sight"

jerry_scherer (4/23/2011 at 11:21 AM)
It is common knowledge among healthcare industry experts that that the answer to the health quality, cost, and access conundrum involves consumer engagement and a shift in focus from healthcare to health and wellness (prevention). Health and wellness initiative supported by consumer education and technology, have demonstrated far more beneficial impact on quality and cost. Why is it that articles and actions continue to focus on traditional healthcare (treatment)?

Jaded (4/14/2011 at 10:03 AM)
Whether you are correct depends on how you define "health care costs." Improving health, reducing hospital harm and delivering better quality care might - - might - - reduce overall demand. But unless providers are willing to concede top line revenue reductions it simply means they are going to raise their unit prices to offset the decreased demand.* For the occasional health care service consumer, that means more pain, not less. Secondarily, this piece begs the question of whether a billion dollar government-industry "partnership" is really the appropriate vehicle for developing what should be basic, fundamental safety (read consumer-centric) facets of care delivery. It bodes ill that 20% of our national economy rides on an industry that is so innovation-inhibited that government cash and oversight are essential to any [INVALID]really, any[INVALID] significant developments in care delivery or finance. We are a hair's-breadth away from a directed economy, whether we want to admit it or not. * I have already heard this song from providers negotiating value-based reimbursement where demand reductions are anticipated.

Barbara Duck (4/13/2011 at 2:14 PM)
The answer lies in greater use of digital literacy a there's no great white hope with budgets, it takes collaboration and Congress becoming participants in what information can be gained. In the meantime, the technology moves to Wall Street who sees value and like I said we might as well start writing chapter 2 of Inside Job. We won't get anywhere until such methodologies occur sadly. Grassley bill is a real good example of him wanting to spend when everyone else is cutting, not a clue that IT infrastructure doesn't grow on trees.




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