Let’s see a show of hands. Who among us, doctor, nurse, patient, family member, wants to give or get health care inspired by a factory—Cheesecake or any other?
I didn’t think so.
True confession: I have never actually eaten at a Cheesecake Factory (hereinafter referred to as the Factory). My wife, Mary, and I did enter one once. We were returning from a summer driving vacation. Dinnertime arrived, and we found ourselves at a mall walking into a busy Factory.
It seemed popular. The wait was long—really long. We got our light-up-wait-for-your-table device. We perused the menu. There was a lot there. Portions seemed gigantic. We looked at each other and, almost without speaking, walked back to the hostess, returned our waiting device and left.
You got me—I cannot say 100 percent that I wouldn’t love Factory food. We were so close that one time!
A young woman in our small New Jersey town recently opened a new restaurant here. We tried it the other night. She and her business partner tended us and all the other patrons with such attention and care. We waited some, true, but she seated us near the bar while we waited—brought over pieces of cheese (no light-up device) for us to enjoy. The menu was ample and varied—not enormous. It’s also true that two items on the menu—including my first choice—were no longer available that evening. The chef however crafted the dishes that we did select with flare and pride. Dinner was a delicious, wonderful, relaxing experience—made better because of the human touch.
It’s probably not fair to contrast my one near-Factory dining experience with this other. Big chain restaurants have clearly figured out a way to provide a consistent meal for millions of satisfied customers. But the Factory way is not for everyone. People, I think, crave customized, attention-to-detail service experiences—in their dining choices. And—I’ll go out on a limb—in their health care too.
There is a consensus that measuring performance can be instrumental in improving value in U.S. health care. In particular clinical areas, such as cardiac and intensive care, measurement has been associated with important improvements in providers’ use of evidence-based strategies and patients’ health outcomes over the past two decades. Perhaps most important, measures have altered the culture of health care delivery for the better, with a growing acceptance that clinical practice can and should be objectively assessed.
Nevertheless, as we argue in the full-length version of this paper, substantial shortcomings in the quality of U.S. health care persist. Furthermore, the growth of performance measurement has been accompanied by increasing concerns about the scientific rigor, transparency, and limitations of available measure sets, and how measures should be used to provide proper incentives to improve performance.
The challenge is to recognize current limitations in how measures are used in order to build a much stronger infrastructure to support the goals of increased accountability, more informed patient choice, and quality improvement. In the following paper, we offer seven policy recommendations for achieving the potential of performance measurement.
1. Decisively move from measuring processes to outcomes.
There is growing interest in relying more on outcome measures and less on process measures, since outcome measures better reflect what patients and providers are interested in. Yet establishing valid outcome measures poses substantial challenges—including the need to riskadjust results to account for patients’ baseline health status and risk factors, assure data validity, recognize surveillance bias, and use sufficiently large sample sizes to permit correct inferences about performance.
2. Use quality measures strategically, adopting other quality improvement approaches where measures fall short.
While working to develop a broad set of outcome measures that can be the basis for attaining the goals of public accountability and information for consumer choice, Medicare should ensure that the use of performance measures supports quality improvement efforts to address important deficiencies in how care is provided, not only to Medicare beneficiaries but to all Americans. CMS’ current focus on reducing preventable rehospitalizations within 30 days of discharge represents a timely, strategic use of performance measurement to address an evident problem where there are demonstrated approaches to achieve successful improvement . Read more.
Case in point: the law’s landmark provisions regarding “patient-centeredness.”
Is anyone against patient-centeredness? Those elitists at the Institute of Medicine, drawing on work by suspect Massachusetts liberals at the Picker Institute, defined patient-centeredness back in 2001 (when George W. Bush was president) this way: “Care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” The IOM also made patient-centeredness one of six aims for U.S. health care.
Wait. Couldn’t Ron Paul and the Libertarians endorse that same individual-centric definition, which also has roots in religious teachings? (Hey, the original Tea Party was in Boston.)
If you’re a free-market conservative, patient-centeredness fits the concept of health care as a marketplace filled with consumers and providers. Interestingly, as early as 1974, under another Republican president, those IOM elitists endorsed publishing outcomes measures “so consumers can be informed of the relative effectiveness of various health providers and make their choices accordingly.”
Think about everything you will pay to support Medicare: the payroll taxes while you are working, the premiums during retirement, and your share of the income taxes that subsidize the system. Then compare that to the benefits of Medicare insurance, say, from age 65 until the day you die.
Are you likely to come out ahead? That depends in part on how old you are. If you are a typical 85-year-old, for example, you can expect about $55,000 of insurance benefits over and above everything you have been paying into the system. If you’re a typical 25-year-old, however, you will pay an extra $111,000 into the system, over and above any benefits you can expect to receive.
By the way, this is not the sort of calculations you want to try at home on a pocket calculator. It’s too complicated. Fortunately the heavy lifting has already been done by Andrew Rettenmaier and Courtney Collins in a report for the National Center for Policy Analysis and summarized in this chart.
In terms of dollars in and dollars out, Medicare breaks down this way:
A typical 85-year-old is going to get back $2.69 in benefits for every dollar paid into the system in the form of premiums and taxes—a good deal by any measure.
People turning 65 today don’t do nearly as well — they get back $1.25 for every dollar they pay in.
The average worker under age 50 loses under the system — with a 45-year-old getting back only 95 cents on the dollar.
That’s better than the deal 25-year-olds get, however; they can expect to get back 75 cents for every dollar they contribute.Continue reading…