Friday, February 09, 2007

Health Care: the wrong position

The following position on Health Care is simply idiotic. I do not have time to present my view on this matter at the time, but please feel free to search this blog for my previous comments on healthcare and discuss this the most pressing political issue to come.

'Four Cornerstones'
Will Transform Health
HealthSource: Forbes Online01 February 2007

Editor's Note: This editorial piece now appears on Forbes Online. It is co-written by Dr. Bob Galvin and Newt Gingrich. Dr. Bob Galvin is GE's Chief Medical Officer and director of global healthcare, GE. Newt Gingrich served as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999 and is founder of the Center for Health Transformation.

By Bob Galvin and Newt Gingrich

The president's State of the Union speech last week sparked a healthy debate over what to prescribe for our ailing health care system. Mandates or markets, single-payer or private sector, generic drugs or brand names? The list of differences is endless. What everyone can agree upon is that health care must be fixed. For both government and the private sector, our current system is unsustainable, and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt is trying to change this.

Many entrenched health care interests often claim that transformational solutions will not work because "health care is different." Health care is, indeed, different, and that is not a good thing. Innovation is slow, quality indicators are down, costs are perpetually on the rise, and tens of millions of individuals are locked out of the insurance market.

Rather than attempting to "fix" health care by himself with one magic bullet, Secretary Leavitt is putting the system on the right course to fix itself. Echoing the renowned Harvard business strategist Michael Porter, Leavitt is moving health care toward a value-based system.
Value-based health care means that providers, health plans and other health care professionals are rewarded--and procedures and products are encouraged and utilized--based upon the true value they bring to the consumer. This means critiquing every aspect of the delivery of care, divining its true value by knowing its cost and quality. This formula works in every other market, and it must be the foundation of health care.

We can bring about real change by centering the system on what Secretary Leavitt calls the "four cornerstones"--information technology, performance measures, transparency and payment reform. The largest purchasers of health care, from state and federal government to the private sector, can change health care by ingraining these four priorities into their purchasing and procurement--and then demanding accountability.

First, we must get information technology into the hands of health care providers. Compared to every other sector of society, most physicians and other providers step back in time when they enter their offices, giving up computers and the Internet for pen and paper. We simply cannot deliver better quality, eliminate waste and improve efficiency without equipping doctors with the point-of-care patient information and decision support tools. And the technology must be interconnected, or interoperable, so that every information technology system, no matter where it is, can deliver the right information on the right person at the right time.

Second, we must accelerate our efforts to create common measures to evaluate performance and cost. Today it is nearly impossible to determine, in any reliable way, who delivers the best quality care and at what cost. Government and industry are working to standardize common measures to enable us to gather and measure performance and cost in a common way, so we can compare apples to apples.

Third, we must widely distribute this information to consumers. Currently, the health care system keeps consumers in the dark about the cost and quality of the care they receive. Try finding out which doctor has the best results for treating patients with asthma or diabetes. Try finding out how much a knee replacement will cost. Sites like and, which contain a wealth of quality and cost data, have proved to be incredibly valuable to consumers.

Additionally, with the right privacy and security protections, the federal government should release the data it has to let the public see which doctors are delivering the best care. Wouldn't you like to know who has the best track record for delivering high-quality care? You have the right to know this information, and the federal government should release it.

Fourth, we must change the way we pay for care. In our current system, hospitals and providers that deliver better care are reimbursed, for the most part, at the exact same rate as those who provide poorer care. That is like paying the same price for a new Cadillac as you would for a used Yugo. This egregious approach must change so that better performers are rewarded.
Secretary Leavitt is trying to ingrain these "four cornerstones" into the federal government's purchasing of health care, most notably through President Bush's Executive Order No. 13410. This order instructs key federal departments, including Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Veterans Affairs, to say to its contracted hospitals, physicians and other providers, We will not do business with you if you do not agree to these principles.

With a $600 billion budget at HHS that's set to explode in the coming years, Secretary Leavitt knows that sitting idly by is not an option. It is not an option for other big purchasers of health care either, be they from the private sector or state government.

That is why GE (nyse: GE - news - people ), IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ), Ford Motor (nyse: F - news - people ), GM (nyse: GM - news - people ), DaimlerChrysler (nyse: DCX - news - people ), Humana (nyse: HUM - news - people ), and others have pledged to instill these cornerstones into their health care purchasing. Gov. Tim Kaine recently signed his own executive order to do the same in Virginia.

If every major employer, be it a corporation or state government, would embrace these four cornerstones, we could indeed build a value-based system that delivers more choices of greater quality at lower cost to every single American. But to get there, we need continued leadership and immediate action from everyone in health care--now.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is founder of the Center for Health Transformation. Dr. Bob Galvin is the chief medical officer and director of global health care at GE. GE, IBM, Ford, GM, DaimlerChrysler and Humana are members of the Center for Health Transformation.

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