I thought of that situation last week while reading the 28-page letter from a loose coalition of six healthcare industry organizations to President Barack Obama. The document outlines the commitments the six groups have made to trim at least $2 trillion off the nations healthcare bill over the next 10 years. The organizations are the Advanced Medical Technology Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, Americas Health Insurance Plans, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Service Employees International Union.
The document, which was released publicly by the groups on June 1, is revealing not so much for what it says specifically but for what it says about how the healthcare system operates in the U.S. and how best to achieve the necessary reforms to that system.
In essence, the groups vow to do all the things that their members should be doing anyway. For example: AdvaMed says it will help develop quality metrics to measure and improve the way medical technologies treat and manage diseases.The AHA says it will launch a campaign to do such things as reduce surgical infections and prevent patient falls. The AMA says it will work to avoid unnecessary readmissions, reduce unnecessary utilization and make sure patients take the right medications. AHIP says it will help standardize and automate five key health benefits functions: claims submissions, eligibility determinations, claims status, payment and remittance. PhRMA says it will work to expand the use of medication therapy management to reduce drug errors and achieve better clinical outcomes. And the SEIU says it will work to expand home and community-based healthcare services so care is delivered in the most appropriate setting.
As the document points out, and as our editorial coverage of the industry confirms, many of these efforts already are in development or are under way on a small scale. Until now, the six groups havent worked together on these issues nor have they gotten their respective members moving on all these initiatives en masse. Kudos to all the individual healthcare organizations, executives, clinicians and others that didnt wait for a green light from their trade group or a threat from the federal government to do the right thing for patients.
But maybe thats how the healthcare delivery system in the U.S. should be reformed. Maybe you dont need a major piece of federal legislation to control costs, expand access and improve care. Maybe you just need the threat of a major piece of federal legislation to get everyone doing the things they should have been doing anyway. Thats putting patients ahead of profits, and we hope the groups work continues in that direction.
I recently attended a presentation by Daniel Wolterman, president and CEO of the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in Houston, on how his system is working hard to improve clinical quality and patient safety. Memorial Hermann won this years National Quality Healthcare Award from the National Quality Forum. (Modern Healthcare is a co-sponsor of the award.) When asked whether the current economic crisis has cut into the systems quality-improvement efforts, Wolterman said not really. He said a 2% to 3% profit margin was plenty to get done what they need to get done for patients. And no one had to take away his golf clubs.