I have a piece up at National Review in which I reflect upon Don Berwick’s controversial tenure as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the 800-billion-dollar federal agency that dominates the American health-care landscape. Despite White House rhetoric to the contrary, I write, Berwick “wasn’t done in by Republican intransigence. He was done in by presidential cowardice. And therein lies a microcosm of everything that’s been wrong with Obamacare.”
The thing to understand about Don Berwick is that there are really two Don Berwicks. There’s the Don Berwick who, through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, has focused on apolitical aspects of health delivery reform. Here’s what I wrote about Berwick in April 2010:
First, the good. Berwick is a serious and credible health-care analyst. In his capacities both as a Harvard professor and as founder and CEO of a Cambridge-based think-tank called the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, he has written extensively about health-care policy in all of the leading scholarly journals. His focus, in most of these writings, is on the quality and efficiency of health care: things like avoiding medical errors and unnecessary spending. He was granted an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth for his role in shaping Tony Blair’s (mostly futile) attempts to modernize Britain’s National Health Service.
While he was a big supporter of Obamacare, Sir Donald acknowledges its core failing; in an October lecture, he said, “Health-care reform without attention to the nature and nurture of health care as a system is doomed. It will at best simply feed the beast, pouring precious resources into the overdevelopment of parts and never attending to the whole — that is, care as our patients, their families, and their communities experience it.” Indeed, if you put Berwick in a room with a leading market-oriented health-care analyst, the two would find broad areas of agreement as to where our health-care system fails patients.
The Health Care Blog recently featured our Open Letter to Primary Care Physicians,generating quite a bit of reaction. A commenter made the point that “we cannot expect” primary care physicians “to act differently until and unless they get paid differently.” [Emphasis added]
The comment refers to a doctor in solo practice and notes that “the first step is changing how you are paid, in one way or another. And there are many ways that work better than the current code-driven fee-for-service model.”
Does waiting for payment reform make sense? Or should primary care practices act now to change the way they practice in anticipation of payment shifts?
Moving Toward Value-based Care
Some physicians groups seem somewhat frozen – unsure exactly where health care payment is headed and thus waiting until there is a clearer signal.
But it seems to us that the payment reform signal grows louder and clearer and support for that contention comes in a recent research report* from McKesson, the international consultancy:
We can now say with certainty that healthcare delivery is moving in one direction: towards value-based care.
This is care that is paid for based on results – on measurable quality – as opposed to the traditional fee-for-service approach that pays for volume. McKesson notes that
The affordability crisis is causing unprecedented changes in the healthcare landscape, the most significant of which is the transition from the current volume-based model [fee-for-service] to myriad models based on measures of value.
To remain relevant and competitive, payers, hospitals, health systems, and clinicians must respond now to integrate value-based models into their existing systems.
On Vox, the vivacious new topical news site, staffed in part by former writers at the Washington Post Wonk Blog, Sarah Kliff writes how Donald Berwick, MD, the recent former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Founder of the prestigious Institute for Healthcare Improvement, has concluded that a single payer health system would answer many of the US’ health care woes.
Dr. Berwick is running for Governor of Massachusetts and this is an important plank of his platform. Of course, it is easy to show that single payer systems in other developed nations provide comparable or better quality care at about half the cost that we do in the US.
All else being equal, I might be inclined to agree with Dr. Berwick’s assessment. But the US is special in two ways that make a single payer system unlikely to produce anything but even higher health care costs than we already have.
First, it is very clear that the health care industry dominates our regulatory environment, so that nearlyevery law and rule is spun to the special rather than the common interest. In 2009, the year the ACA was formulated, health care organizations deployed 8 lobbyists for every member of Congress, and contributed an unprecedented $1.2 billion in campaign contributions in exchange for influence over the shape of the law.
This is largely why, while it sets out the path to some important goals, the ACA is so flawed.
Since its Sundance premiere in 2012, ESCAPE FIRE has screened for national leaders, medical experts, thousands of students, and the general public. The film opened in theatres last October, and had its broadcast premiere on CNN March 10th. From the Pentagon to local communities, ESCAPE FIRE has reached an incredibly diverse audience.
Last year, ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare screened on college campuses nation-wide two weeks before opening in theaters. Almost 6,000 students came together to watch the award-winning documentary, and to host discussions about the current state of the American healthcare system. The sentiments from these discussions became calls to action: service projects, course work, and blogs for undergraduates and medical students across the nation.
This year we’re doing it all again. On September 17th, ESCAPE FIRE will play at more than 60 college and university campuses across the country, followed by panel discussions and Q&As. We’ve partnered with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), one of the widest-reaching non-profit health organizations in the US, to make sure as many students are aware of the opportunity as possible.
We’re taking the event a step further this year by donating an Educational copy of ESCAPE FIRE to each participating campus, allowing the event to incite change for years to come. Our hope is that students, after attending an entertaining event and participating in thoughtful conversations about their communities, will take on an active role in transforming healthcare.
In order to make sure this discussion doesn’t stop after school or with student groups, we have accredited ESCAPE FIRE for both Continuing Medical Education units and Continuing Nursing Education contact hours. Now, anyone who views the film, can get educational credit. And for the week of September 17th through 30th, the film will be available on iTunes for $0.99.
This is a unique and unprecedented chance for healthcare providers to utilise the film to elevate and deepen the national dialogue about our healthcare system and our role in leading it out of crisis.
Spread the word about this event on Facebook and Twitter. And find a screening near you.
While the nation has been focused on the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, innovations in hospitals and physician practices far from Capitol Hill have been triggering an historic transformation of our health care system. Propelled by a mix of urgency and vision, innovators at hospitals, physician groups and companies are remaking American health care by demonstrating that more effective and affordable care is achievable quite apart from statutory changes in Washington.
These organizations are working to achieve the Triple Aim: improve the health of the population; enhance the patient experience of care (including quality, access, and reliability); and reduce, or at least control, the per capita cost of care. This approach, developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, is a sharp break with the traditional focus on single encounters with patients within the strict walls of health care delivery, typically addressing only the most immediate problems.
Early on, many social movements depend on a charismatic leader to focus attention, build a burning platform, and inspire people to action. You know when the movement has made it when it no longer needs such a leader for fuel.
The safety and quality movements have picked up tremendous steam over the past decade, but they haven’t yet hit that self-sustaining tipping point. Last week, there were two things that reminded me of this: the announcement of a new leader of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), and a doleful JAMA essay by Peter Pronovost.
During the circus that was Don Berwick’s recess appointment to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), all eyes were trained Inside the Beltway. But 440 miles north, in Cambridge, MA, arguably the most important organization in the quality and safety galaxy needed to get on with its business. On July 8th, IHI announced its choice of Maureen Bisognano to become its new CEO. Maureen is a nurse and former hospital exec who has spent the last 15 years at IHI as Don’s consigliere. She is a terrific person, with boundless energy and great organizational skills – insiders will tell you that she was the reason that IHI’s trains ran on time for the past decade, as Don is the quintessential big picture guy.Continue reading…