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An Acronym for Health Care Reform

In health care we have an acronym for everything. I’m sure you have heard HIPAA, EMR, ICU, etc.  I’ve created an acronym of my own – ACQ or Access, Cost and Quality.  In my mind, these are the three fundamental issues that have to be addressed when working to reform today’s national health care system (which is not really a system at all, but I’ll go into that in more detail in a later post).

When you interview patients, regardless of their political linkages, their background, or their age, you almost always hear that access is a number one issue with health care; meaning do they and their family members have access to the care they need when they need it? They say, “Will my child be able to see a pediatrician today if they’re sick?” And that’s a pretty reasonable thing for people to be concerned about. Sure emergency department doors are open to all 24/7 but is that the ideal setting for such basic needs?  People need a “medical home”. Someone who knows them, their health history, their habits, etc. and can help facilitate wellness, prevention, and additional hands-on and technical levels of care should it be needed.

Cost is a primary concern to not only consumers but to the folks that are paying for health care- be it the individual or business or government.  We have to find a way to keep the costs affordable for whoever is seeking are and/or paying the bills. I contend that there is enough money in health care today, but we are laden with inefficiencies and waste in the “system” as it exists. While we at WakeMed have done a lot to get rid of this waste, there is much more to be done.  If that can be corrected, it will provide not only a better health care experience but certainly a better economic experience for the consumer not to mention the nation as a whole.

Finally, quality has to be the cornerstone of how we address wellness, prevention and provide care in the future. From a patient’s standpoint, when we’re talking about quality we usually just say it’s the care that is going to be delivered and what is the outcome. But I think quality care extends beyond the actual clinical care they receive in a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office. Do the things that caregivers do make a difference in the lives of the patient and their families? Is the cost appropriate? Is it safe? Do we have a way of passing along health information in a timely and secure manner to other authorized members of the care team so there is not repetition not to mention mistakes? All of those things are part of the equation of quality.

Everything we do must be built on these measureable elements because if what results from health care reform does not incorporate measures to ensure access is guaranteed for everyone, costs are reasonable, and quality is assured, then it is not a real-world advance at all.