Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Healthcare Tipping Point

The book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell makes an interesting premise: that large sociological changes are usually hatched from small incremental events that, taken collectively, disrupt sociological behaviors. Such tiny events, when they occur frequently enough, build to create a "tipping point" that changes human behavior and disrupts market and sociological trends.

I couldn't help but think I viewed a "tipping point" when reading the excellent journalistic piece reported by the Boston Globe last week, entitled, "A Heathcare System Badly Out of Balance" that describes the complicated pricing differentials between large "name brand" hospitals and their competitors in the Boston healthcare market.

But what made the writing of this piece possible was one small event. A tiny disruptor. What was that tipping point?

Price transparency.

It was the ability to compare costs that permitted the revealing report:
The insurance data obtained by the Globe, drawn from millions of medical claims collected by the state Health Care Quality and Cost Council, is a byproduct of the state's sweeping healthcare reform law of 2006. Because some hospitals treat sicker people, the data has been adjusted to reflect the cost of care for an average patient.

The law calls for the council to post insurance claim information on the web so that the public can see the disparities.
But transparency, as the authors point out, was not easy to come by and verify.
But a year and a half after the law was passed, the council has still not published its findings because of disputes with medical groups about how the numbers should be presented and whether they are accurate in every detail.

"Apparently, this subject is the equivalent of the third rail," said Gregory W. Sullivan, the state's inspector general and a member of the Quality and Cost Council.

However, council officials say privately that the data, after months of review by the hospitals, is generally accurate. Partners said it has raised concerns "about the data and methodology" with the council. But other hospitals contacted by the Globe either confirmed the data's accuracy or would not comment on it.
It is important to realize that price transparency did not always change peoples' perceptions or actions (particularly if they did not have to pay for services through insurers). But for others with high-deductible insurance policies who bore much of the cost for tests themselves, price mattered.

In the days ahead as policy makers meet to hash out details of our new health care strategy for the future during these harsh economic times, insisting on verifiable price transparency from all parties will serve as a powerful incentive to improve quality while reining in costs to the ultimate health care consumer: the patient.

-Wes

2 comments:

Keith Sarpolis said...

Wes

Great post!
Hmmm. I wonder if this applies to any hospitals in the Chicago area?

Anonymous said...

Our Paraplegic Health Care System That Now Exists In The U.S.

The following are facts that are believed to exist regarding the present U.S. Health Care System. This may be why about 80 percent of U.S. citizens understandably want our health care system overhauled:
The U.S. is ranked number 42 related to life expectancy and infant mortality, which is rather low.
However, the U.S. is ranked number one in the world for spending the most for health care- as well as being number one for those with chronic diseases. About 125 million people have such diseases. This is about 70 percent of the Medicare budget that is spent treating these terrible illnesses. Health Care cost presently is over 2 trillion dollars of our gross domestic product. One third of that amount is nothing more than administrative toxic waste that does not involve the restoration of the health of others. This illustrates how absurd the U.S. Health Care System is presently. Nearly 7000 dollars is spent on every citizen for health care every year, and that, too, is more than anyone else in the world.
We have around 50 million citizens without any health insurance, which may cause about 20 thousand deaths per year. This includes millions of children without health care, which is added to the planned or implemented cuts in the government SCHIP program for children, which alone covers about 7 million kids.
Our children
Nearly half of the states in the U.S. are planning on or have made cuts to Medicaid, which covers about 60 million people, and those on Medicaid are in need of this coverage is largely due to unemployment. With these Medicaid cuts, over a million people will lose their health care coverage and benefits to a damaging degree.
About 70 percent of citizens have some form of health insurance, and the premiums for their insurance have increased nearly 90 percent in the past 8 years. About 45 percent of health care is provided by our government- which is predicted to experience a severe financial crisis in the near future with some government health care programs, it has been reported. Most doctors want a single payer health care system, which would save about 400 billion dollars a year- about 20 percent less than what we are paying now. The American College of Physicians, second in size only to the American Medical Association, supports a single payer health care system. The AMA, historically opposed to a single payer health care system, has close to half of its members in favor of this system. Less than a third of all physicians are members of the AMA, according to others.
Our health care we offer citizens is the present system is sort of a hybrid of a national and private health care system that has obviously mutated to a degree that is incapable of being fully functional due to perhaps copious amounts and levels of individual and legal entities.
Half of all patients do not receive proper treatment to restore their health, it has been stated. Medical errors desperately need to be reduced as well, it has been reported, which should be addressed as well.
It is estimated that the U.S. needs presently tens of thousands more primary care physicians to fully satisfy the necessities of those members of the public health. This specialty makes nearly 100 thousand less in income compared with other physician specialties, yet they are and have been the backbone of the U.S. health care system. PCPs manage the chronically ill patients, who would benefit the most from the much needed coordination and continuity of care that PCPs historically have strived to provide for them. Nearly have of the population has at least one chronic illness- with many of those having more than one of these types of illnesses. A good portion of these very ill patients have numerous illnesses that are chronic, and this is responsible for well over 50 percent of the entire Medicare budget. .
The shortage of primary care physicians is due to numerous variables, such as administrative hassles that are quite vexing for these doctors, along with ever increasing patient loads complicated by the progressively increasing cost to provide care for their patients. Many PCPs are retiring early, and most medical school graduates do not strive to become this specialty for obvious reasons. In fact, the number entering family practice residencies has decreased by half over the past decade or so. PCPs also have extensive student loans from their training to complicate their rather excessive workloads as caregivers.
Yet if primary care physicians were increased in number with the populations they serve and are dedicated to their welfare. Studies have shown that mortality rates would decrease due to increased patient outcomes if this increase were to occur. This specialty would also optimize preventative care more for their patients. Studies have also shown that, if enough PCPs are practicing in a given geographical area, hospital admissions are decreased, as well as visits to emergency rooms. This is due to the ideal continuity in health care these PCPs provide if numbered correctly to serve more, the quality improves, as well as the outcomes for their patients. Most importantly, the quality of life for their patients is much improved if there are enough PCPs to handle the overwhelming load of responsibility they presently have due to this shortage of their specialty that is suppose to increase in the years to come. The American College of Physicians believes that a patient centered national health care workforce policy is needed to address these issues that would ideally restructure the payment policies that exist presently with primary care physicians.
Further vexing is that it is quite apparent that we have some greedy health care corporations that take advantage of our health care system. Over a billion dollars was recovered for Medicare and Medicaid fraud last year through settlements paid to the department of Justice because some organizations who deliberately ripped off taxpayers. These are the taxpayers in the U.S. who have a fragmented health care system with substantial components and different levels of government- composed of several legal entities and individuals, which has resulted in medical anarchy, so it seems.
Health 2.0, a new healthcare social networking innovation, is informing patients about their symptoms and potential if not possessing various disease states- largely based on the testimonies of other people on various websites. This may be an example of how so many others rely now on health concerns from those who likely are not medical specialists, instead of becoming a participant, if not victim, of the U.S. Health Care System.
Thanks to various corporations infecting our Health Care System in the United States, the following variables sum up this system as it exists today, which is why the United States National Health Insurance Act (H.R. 676) is the best solution to meet our health care needs as citizens, it appears. We would finally have, as with most other countries, a Universal Health Care system that will allow free choice of doctors and hospitals, potentially. It should be and likely will be funded by a combination of payroll taxes and general tax revenue:
Access- citizens do not have the right or ability to make use of this system as we should.
Efficiency- this system strives on creating much waste and expense as it possibly can.
Quality- the standard of excellence we deserve as citizens with our health care is missing in action.
Sustainability- We as citizens cannot continue to keep our health care system in as it is designed at this time- as it exists today.
http://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/publications/US_healthcare/index.asp
Dan Abshear