Let's tell it like it is. The healthcare sector is a well-intentioned industry that cultivates dramatic scientific advancements but operates in a highly uncoordinated state characterized by perverse incentives and, astoundingly, very little accountability.
That stinging statement was the backdrop for the Millennium Health Imperative, a dead-on research report that is summarized in this week's issue. The Cerner Corp.-Modern Healthcare initiative follows three years of research and dialogue by a blue-ribbon panel of healthcare executives and physicians.
The MHI is a slight departure for this magazine. Our primary mission is collecting, packaging and disseminating news that affects managers of medical-services organizations. But we also have a responsibility to offer insight and guidance to help readers cope with business challenges. For example, our May 28 Eye on Info supplement presented a package of stories on how hospitals are leveraging information technology to reduce medical errors.
By the same token, the MHI report is more than an environmental assessment of healthcare. Indeed, the study offers a blueprint to make the healthcare system more coordinated, responsive and focused on reducing costs and eliminating avoidable medical errors.
The recommended pathways to reform promise to be tedious and complicated and not politically correct. Dangling incentives to close underused facilities, developing a single enterprisewide patient bill and adhering to a common nomenclature are much easier said than done. And there will be no overnight miracles. The MHI group believes it will take at least 10 years for even one-third of the nation's communities to develop properly aligned healthcare systems.
The effort will founder without strong leadership and commitment from all industry stakeholders. Even though the risks are high and the rewards distant, the alternative is the continued decay of the healthcare infrastructure. Please do your part.