Providing healthcare coverage for all Americans is a goal that has long been debated and discussed. Providers, payers, policymakers and consumers all agree that something must be done, yet few agree on exactly how we achieve this goal.
Recently, 12 members of the Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation traveled to Israel to learn about its healthcare system and its innovations. Our overall mission of promoting business and continued professional growth among our members was well-served on this visit, as we each had many opportunities to observe and learn about the characteristics of what appears to be a very effective, nationally run healthcare system. A few in our group were quite knowledgeable about the Israeli healthcare industry, but for most of us this trip provided the first opportunity to learn about how this small country manages to cover all of its residents.
While there were many notable observations, four key themes from the Israeli healthcare system are particularly relevant to our healthcare situation here in the U.S.:
This is not a perfect system. Israel faces many of the same challenges that we have in the U.S. That includes having enough money for care delivery and for new technology, needed adjustments to the risk formula and sufficient physician compensation. Despite these challenges, there appears to be a high level of overall satisfaction with the system. There is recognition that future changes and refinements will be required, and even that privatization of government-owned hospitals is possible.
In the U.S., we have a fair amount of concern regarding increasing the role of government in the provision of healthcare benefits, and that concern is valid. However, a system as fragmented and with so many varied stakeholders is a prime candidate for governmental leadership and interventionif only to develop and implement a public-private partnership solution.
Cases of extreme complexity and that cross many boundaries are classic examples of situations where governmental leadership is required. Providing health benefits coverage for all U.S. citizens requires the decision to do so. Our country has demonstrated many times that we are capable of implementing reasonable and needed change; however, that change cannot occur without the leadership and commitment to change.
There is palpable excitement around healthcare research and technological innovations. These technologies promise more advances and less invasive treatments and interventions that result in shorter recuperations and, ultimately, improved productivity. In some cases, the technology is relatively inexpensive. There is also great promise for success in earlier detection and management of chronic illnesses.
Patients access to their own records also allows them to be active participants in managing their own healthcare. Providers are now implementing EHRs in all settings. While privacy concerns exist, the countrys leadership and managed-care insurers are committed to EHRs with appropriate privacy protections. Widespread use of EHRs in the U.S. could lead to greatly improved care delivery, efficiencies and better patient management.
Our country is blessed with an abundance of talented scientists, physicians, engineers, economists, financial managers and others who are capable of working through the details of providing basic healthcare coverage to all U.S. citizens. We have leaders who are capable of guiding us through myriad changes that will be required. We can learn much from Israel. Our greatest opportunity, however, is to learn from ourselves.
Israelis understand that health benefits, education, innovation and entrepreneurship are requirements, not options. What better time for those of us leading healthcare here in the U.S. to make a decision that we will reform our system to provide all citizens with basic coverage within a specified period of time? This decision will require leadership, boldness and innovation. We have those traits here in the U.S.