After the 2014 midterm elections, when Republicans won majority control of the U.S. Senate, pundits and analysts wrote and spoke volumes about what this change in Washington would mean for health care. What would happen to “Obamacare” with the GOP holding a greater degree of power on Capitol Hill?
To me, many of these discussions largely miss the point about the direction and pace of health care progress in America. Yes, short-term opportunities and challenges occur whenever political power changes hands. However, the evolution and long-term improvement of our health care system cannot hinge on which way Washington’s winds are blowing at any given time.
The Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) is a coalition of chief executives from all health sectors. We’re fortunate to have member companies like McKesson (in fact, John Hammergren is a former chairman of HLC).Our members have a clear and cohesive vision of how to make health care in this country more quality-driven and cost-effective. To that end, the members of HLC have established a set of priorities for the organization that will have currency for decades, not just until the next election.
A number of issues critical to health care’s future transcend partisan conflicts. Among those are:
- The Development and Dissemination of Data. Nothing will have a greater impact on the future of American health care than the accessibility and use of data. The ability to share clinical data among providers is already improving the quality and safety of patient care. And extracting knowledge from the billions of health care transactions that take place each year will take us toward new, exciting levels of evidence-based medicine.
Right now, HLC members are working with leaders at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Administration and other federal agencies to allow private entities greater access to federal health data for health care quality improvement and medical research. We’re also working toward progress on the interoperability of health information systems, an issue on which McKesson brings significant expertise.
- Emphasizing Wellness and Disease Prevention. Today, we spend more than 75 cents of every health care dollar treating individuals with chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. If the incidence rate of these illnesses continues to rise—one in three Americans, for example, is projected by the CDC to have diabetes in the year 2050—our health care resources will be stretched beyond the breaking point.
Throughout the country, health care companies, employers and community organizations are finding new, innovative ways to keep people healthy and prevent disease. At HLC, we’re working to identify these successes, put a spotlight on them and work with policymakers to extrapolate the results to larger populations.
- Making the Health Care Professions More Appealing. As our population ages and more people find health care coverage through various provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the demand for health services will keep rising. A number of steps need to be taken to address current and future health care workforce shortages, but a couple can certainly come in the short term.
First, there is bipartisan support for developing a permanent solution to the way in which Medicare pays doctors, one that provides fair and adequate reimbursement while also establishing incentives for high-quality, coordinated care. Also, we need to replace our severely flawed, counterproductive medical liability system with one that establishes legal protections to health care professionals who utilize evidence-based standards when providing care.
These constitute a sampling of the initiatives that can put us on the path toward transforming our health care system for the better. Progress on each of them will enable us to provide better care and achieve improved patient outcomes while also lowering costs. And, all of these objectives can and will remain priorities regardless of who’s running Washington, because health care leaders (and, proudly, HLC members) like McKesson are keeping their unwavering sights on a productive, achievable future.