Medical Cost Control Is a Patriotic Duty

Growing need to contain healthcare costs

Year 2014 by pills

By: Toby Cosgrove, MD

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In 1960, President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Now, as 2013 winds down, we’re all wondering:  What will the government do for healthcare – and what will healthcare do for the people of the United States.

We’ve gotten ourselves into a fix over the past half century. Healthcare costs have risen out of control. They are now 18 percent of the American GDP. They’re eating into societal necessities, like education, the military and social safety nets. We’re paying more for healthcare than any people on earth. For America to remain competitive, it’s crucial that we harness rising healthcare costs.

The power of consolidation

When people talk about healthcare reform, they are usually referring to the federal government’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2008. But some medical organizations were well ahead of ACA by that time. At Cleveland Clinic, we looked at our widespread system of hospitals and realized that it would be more efficient to consolidate specific services at certain locations, rather than offer them at all our facilities. We did this in obstetrics, rehabilitation, cardiac surgery and pediatrics.

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When everyone is under one roof, you see more patients, get more experience, use fewer supplies, and improve quality. You can standardize care and improve patient experience.

The rollout of ACA is bringing cost awareness to a head. But we were already cutting costs in purchasing – $180 million in two years. We installed software to block redundant lab tests, preventing 12,000 unnecessary tests so far.

Changing healthcare costs

We in healthcare know that we’re going to be paid less by private and public payers. Medicare is going to take its reimbursement even lower. NIH is going to be paying less for research. But it’s no single payer or program that’s making this happen. It’s the culmination of a whole series of factors beginning more than six years ago.

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The cost of healthcare will never go back to where it was during the Kennedy administration. But in those days, there was no CT, no MRI, and few effective treatments for cancer, heart disease or osteoarthritis. Modern healthcare has given us longer, healthier and more productive lives. We need to keep it affordable. It’s something we owe to our patients and their families. It’s what we in healthcare can do for our country.

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