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Health care weighs heavily on minds of providers

It’s an exciting but fretful time for the industry, official says

by Matthew Kredell

The Athenian Society, the USC Price School of Public Policy’s philanthropic support group, assembled a panel of health care professionals and providers to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the transformation occurring in the health care system.

Titled “Beyond Healthcare Reform: From Volume to Value,”  the April 23 Dean’s Speaker Series held at City Club in downtown Los Angeles highlighted the importance of collaboration to adjust and grow in these changing times.

USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott pointed out that health policy and administration are signature areas of the school, which offers a master’s and executive master’s degree in health administration, as well as an undergraduate concentration in health, and houses leading faculty experts through the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics.

“There may be no single more important domestic policy and economic issue facing our country, especially with our concerns about the quality, the costs and the access to health care,” Knott said.

‘We’re all in this together’

Kim Athmann King, founder and president of Strategy Advantage, a health care consultancy firm, moderated the conversation featuring Douglas Allen, vice president of integration at Davita Healthcare Partners; Steve Mohr, senior vice president of finance at Loma Linda University Medical Center; and Dale Surowitz, CEO at Providence Health and Services.

King brought up the Bob Dylan lyric “the times they are a-changin’ ” to describe the current state of health care, expressing that it’s an exciting but also worrisome time to be part of the industry.

“Whether you’re a provider, an administrator, a patient, a new buyer of health insurance on the Covered California exchange, a student or a caregiver, the fact of the matter is — as it relates to health care in this moment in time — we’re all in this together,” King said.

The goal is clearly defined by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim: to simultaneously improve the health of the population and the experience and outcomes of the patient while reducing the cost of care. Meeting that goal poses an enormous challenge for the U.S. health care system.

Collaboration among competitors moving forward

Collaboration, consolidation and conglomeration were key words used repeatedly for how providers can grow and sustain themselves in this new era.

Dale Surowitz of Providence Health

Dale Surowitz of Providence Health and Services (USC Photo/Tom Queally)

“Most organizations, to be very candid, are playing catch up to Kaiser,” Surowitz said. “More organizations are looking at that model as the place they want to go. To be able to do this, you really can’t do it on your own.”

He described an interesting situation taking place in Los Angeles and across the nation of competitors talking to each other about how they can collaborate. Medical groups, insurance companies and other hospital providers are finding that they can be partners in some areas while remaining competitors in others.

“I don’t think, as an organization moving forward, we’re going to be able to do it singularly,” Surowitz said. “We’re going to have to partner with other organizations and do it collectively because we don’t do all things. We’re going to have to look at partnerships with organizations that can help us provide the continuing care to meet the needs of our population.”

In order to create balance and deliver quality services as effectively and affordable as possible, Surowitz said competitors are beginning to talk to each other about how they can collaborate in some areas, even while they are competing in others.

Patients themselves have the potential to make the greatest impact on costs and on how health care is provided by taking a greater responsibility of their own health. Most health issues stem from controllable vices such as smoking, drinking, drug use and overeating.

Involving physicians and employers to take more active preventative steps to ensure patients are healthy is an area ripe for innovation. Fundamentally changing national health care reimbursement policy could bring enormous savings.

“Really, the bending of the cost curve of the nation is going to require that the national care system incentivize the right behaviors,” Allen said.

The health care organizations that thrive through these transitional times will be the ones that are nimble in addressing the changing needs of the market.

“The winners are going to be those who are going to be innovative, who are going to be able to really aggregate services between physicians, hospitals and aftercare opponents, and those who will also be able to invest back into their communities in ways that help to decrease poverty and get people to lead healthy lives that aren’t costing the system more money,” Mohr said.

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