I had an interesting experience this week when my friend, retired pathologist Dr. Bob Gibb, asked me to sit in with him on a group telephone call among alumni physicians trained at the Mayo Clinic. It seems that Mayo has decided to try and play a "convener role" in our national discussion of health policy, and this phone conference was part of an effort to spread their message and get the word out about what they believe is central to true health care reform. They have also developed a web site for the Mayo Health Policy Center.
On the call I learned that Mayo has 4 cornerstone principles that they believe must be included for meanigful reform:
- Creating Value - do we actually improve health in a measurable way?
- Coordinated Care - Mayo is an example of working together and not in silos
- Payment Reform - provide incentives to coordinate care, improve outcomes and enhance patient decision making
- Health Insurance for All- essential in order to share risk, and improve the health of entire populations.
- Choice - people want a choice of doctors, plans and hospitals when possible
- Access -the Massachusetts experience makes it clear that "insurance for all" is a hollow accomplishment without enough primary care doctors to provide access to care!
Steven Pearlstein noted in a recent Washington Post article, "If we really want to fix America's overpriced and under-performing health-care system, what really matters is changing the ways doctors practice medicine, individually and collectively. Everything else -- mandate or no mandate, the tax treatment of health benefits, whether there's a "public plan" to compete against private health insurers -- is just tinkering at the margin." I could not agree more. In order to get there, however, we will need to pay physicians differently to coordinate care, and measure results. For this reason, payment reform is the most critical first step. Indeed, the results we are seeing today are just what our payment system is designed to produce! The American College of Physicians (ACP) 2006 report actually predicts the imminent collapse of primary care in the United States, due to the inadequate and dysfunctional payment policies of the government and other third party payers.
We have an historic opportunity to change course. Thanks to the Mayo Clinic for weighing in!