Dr. Atul Gawande, author of the influential article, "The Cost Conundrum," published in the New Yorker in 2009, challenged the several thousand healthcare executives assembled at the American Hospital Association's Leadership Summit in San Diego to lead their community or health system in becoming the nation's first to actually lower costs, not just bend the cost curve. Gawande gave the opening keynote address on Monday, the second day of the three-day conference.
Push to lower costs, Gawande urges healthcare leaders
Gawande's article highlighted the dramatic variations in healthcare costs and outcomes, and the fact that there's little correlation between the two. But rather than seeing the glass as half empty, executives should see the finding as half full because it means, in his words,"there's hope" because the industry can lower spending without a drop in quality or safety. "If the best care was the most expensive, the only solution (to lowering spending) would be to ration care," he argued.
Gawande suggested healthcare executives and leaders need four skills to attack the cost issue: the ability to collect data; the ability to design solutions to the problems identified by the data; the ability to then implement the solutions; and, finally, the ability to lead a community or organization through the process.
He then pointed the attendees to the three types of patients to target with the aforementioned skills as they are the biggest drivers of runaway healthcare spending. They are patients with complex illnesses; patients with terminal diseases; and patients with catastrophic illnesses or injuries.
Drawing a parallel to the so-called "greatest generation," which saw the nation through the Great Depression and World War II, Gawande said finding the answer to lowering healthcare spending is "our generational job."
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