Perhaps there’s hope after all. The Obama administration announced plans to initiate quality healthcare for Americans, a plan long overdue. Ten billion dollars has been allocated for the next 10 years to reduce the incidence of medical errors and improve the quality of patient care. In the past 12 years, I have wanted to mimic an old computer commercial and ask “Dude, where’s our healthcare system?” Who will put the “care” back in healthcare?
At present, our healthcare system is reminiscent of a business where productivity and excessive volume of patients seems to be the order of the day. 1 out of every 7 Medicare patients who is hospitalized becomes a victim of medical errors. In the quest to obtain the Holy Grail insurance contract, some government funded clinics have implemented patient schedules that require primary care physicians to see up to 48 patients per day and sometimes even more. Nurses either leave out of frustration or Administrators who have never set foot in a medical school now attempt to dictate policy and procedure. I recall having a recent conversation with an administrator over the inadequacy of time provided to fully assess a patient and she alluded that my patient history should be shortened. I had to excuse myself from the meeting under the pretense of requiring a bathroom break in order to regain my composure. How on earth did our healthcare system end up on “Let’s Make a Deal?”
The new healthcare law’s initiatives to promote patient safety and improve quality healthcare is a welcomed change. As a physician, it’s daunting to see near-misses or near fatal acts because people are either overworked or distracted. And what’s equally disturbing is that some healthcare administrators don’t seem to care.
The appointment of Dr. Don Berwick as the leader of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare is a progressive step to redirect our efforts to improve the lives of our patients. As the co-founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Berwick spearheaded pilot projects that aimed to achieve “continuous quality improvement” as far back as 1991. He organized teams of medical workers to provide innovative solutions and improve healthcare outcomes. He will now take that same model and incorporate both medical and private sector industry to help overhaul our present healthcare system and promote ways to reduce hospital-acquired infections, readmission hospital rates, and preventable medical errors and improve patient clinical outcomes.
Eight states have been selected to begin the quality improvement process which includes Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan and Minnesota. Other states will participate in the future.
The implementation of a quality Medicare and Medicaid plan will certainly not happen overnight but at least there appears to be a glimmer of hope at the end of the healthcare tunnel.