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Leadership on the Quality/Cost Front Lines

August 22, 2013
4:00 pm

Building on my last post about U.S. healthcare leaders making a difference – one for which they’re often not given full credit – in containing health system costs while still elevating care quality and improving patient outcomes, I want to bring attention to a speech made by Dr. Steven Corwin, the CEO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital.  Dr. Corwin is a member of the Healthcare Leadership Council.

What I particularly like about Dr. Corwin’s remarks, covered in the Jamestown Post-Journal, is that he doesn’t bemoan the challenges facing hospital leaders, but rather sees progress as inevitable.  As he put it, “What I want you to keep in mind today as we discuss the problems with our health care system is: They are solvable. This is a great country with great minds. We can address these problems. And, we can continue the art of progress, so that we can reduce the burden of disease in our society.”

The article about his speech includes two particular points worth highlighting.  One is that New York-Presbyterian, one of the nation’s most well-respected health systems, plans to cut costs by $150 million over the next three years, but will do so without sacrificing the quality of care it provides patients.  He pointed out that savings can be achieved through evidence-based medicine, team-based care and reduced variations in care.

Dr. Corwin also emphasized that, as the healthcare system moves forward, there must continue to be investment in research and innovation.

As I read the coverage of Dr. Corwin’s speech, it just drives home the point that patients will be better served and our healthcare system made more sustainable if we address our cost challenges through innovation and improvements in care that lead to a healthier population rather than arbitrary government-imposed cutbacks that can have an adverse effect on both access and quality.

The Health Cost Slowdown: Credit Where Credit’s Due

August 14, 2013
4:31 pm

It’s no longer fresh news that health cost increases are undergoing a considerable slowdown.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has presented statistics showing a historic decline in Medicare per-beneficiary spending growth and a Robert Samuelson column last week in the Washington Post noted that overall healthcare prices are undergoing the slowest rate of increase in half a century.

The lion’s share of commentary we see on these trends tend to fall into either of two camps.  Some argue that we’re already seeing the beneficial effects of an Affordable Care Act that is far from fully implemented.  Others say that the cost slowdown is a side effect of the nation’s lengthy period of economic doldrums and that consumers, many of whom are unemployed or underemployed, are postponing or foregoing medical spending.

Another possible contributing factor, that doesn’t receive a similar level of chatter, is that health care companies and providers have made significant strides in elevating the cost-efficiency of care and improving patient outcomes.  This is happening in myriad ways including, but certainly not limited to, new steps to reduce hospital-acquired infections, advances in biopharmaceutical and technological interventions, strides in emphasizing wellness in the workplace and innovative uses of health information technology and digital communications to expand healthcare’s reach beyond the clinic and the hospital.

We have chronicled many of these episodes of progress – with documentation of dollars saved and lives affected – in our HLC Value Compendium and Wellness Compendium.

And this is an issue we’ll continue to discuss in this space because, in discussing the current healthcare cost slowdown, we shouldn’t overlook the impact of progress and innovation.