Thursday, December 6, 2007

Transparency: Health Care Cost and Performance

Today the San Francisco Chronicle brings us an excellent piece co-authored by Bill Novelli (CEO of AARP), James Guest (president and CEO of Consumer's Union and publisher of Consumer Reports) and Peter V. Lee (president and CEO of Pacific Business Group on Health). These three and their respective companies are pushing hard for certain modifications to the final version of California's health care reform legislation.

In short they are demanding that cost and performance data on service providers become publicly accessible.

Many people have fond memories of their grandparents. You probably remember your grandmother taking you shopping as a child at some point. If she was anything like my own grandmother she compared weights and prices and ingredients before deciding on her final purchase. She probably also expounded at length on the virtues of comparison-shopping, and rightly so.

The current state of the health care system here in the United States does not allow that sort of informed choice. This opacity is both counterintuitive and counterproductive. With more data transparency shopping for health care services will come to resemble other types of shopping, you will be able to compare and contrast what you will be receiving for your money.

Many hospitals and private providers are putting up a fight, lobbying for a voluntary program rather than a mandatory one. Novelli, Guest, and Lee take issue with this position stressing that voluntary programs cannot work due to lack of participation by providers.

They demand that certain things be included in the final legislation before it is signed into law:

  • Stop compensating for quantity of medical procedures and instead focus on quality of care.

  • Preventative care and management of chronic conditions should be encouraged, creating an overall improvement in patient health and a lowering of health care costs.

  • Information technology should be used to create access to provider cost and quality data, allowing conservation of both lives and finances
Their summation shares many commonalities with Mr. Halvorson's Eight Developments that Make Health Care Reform Possible. Implementing this sort of transparency can help combat the lack of accountability and inefficiency of our current "non system."

SOURCE: "Health reform must make sure care cost and quality are made public" 12/06/07
photo courtesy of Karmelize, remixed by George Williams and used under this Creative Commons license

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