Thursday, March 8, 2012

Will the Pace of Innovative Change Overtake the Financial Imperative to Slash Spending?

I thought it was worth passing along the comments by Jim Tallon, president of New York's United Hospital Fund, in a recent post.

Tallon reflected on an international meeting he attended with health care leaders from a number of industrial nations--"nations whose health care systems, indeed underlying philosophies, ranged from market orientation through hybrids to government authority:"

"Across the industrialized world, people are coming up with fresh ideas and vital approaches to the profound, central challenge that health care constitutes—new ideas on organization, financing, and care, on far greater use of real-time information technology, and on patients’ greater engagement in their health…

"What were these leaders’ 'keeps me awake at night' concerns? Their answer, almost uniformly, was that the pace of innovative change would not overtake the financial imperative to slash spending.

"The challenge within the challenge, then, is how to take individual ideas and models to scale. With considerable consensus on the problems, and individual projects being implemented—whether generated in local communities or institutions or stimulated by government or private-sector support—we are now at a critical juncture: can the ideas that are being tested ultimately alter economic and societal trends, in which health care plays a major role? How do individual ideas, even the sum of those individual ideas, expand into systemic change that ultimately can get us the health care system we need, accessible for all, of the highest quality, and—the biggest challenge—actively altering the constant upward movement of the cost curve?"

We are 30 years into what could generally be described as managed care—all of the attempts to create an affordable quality health care system. But 30 years in, we may have done little more than to blunt our escalating health care costs.

Time is running out. And, not just in the U.S. And, not just in market-based systems.

Tallon’s full comments on the United Hospital Fund website.


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