Since the beginning of the year we have seen a surge of activity from our nation’s lawmakers to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Ultimately, the House of Representatives passed a bill that was sent to the Senate. The bill, of course, failed to reach the necessary votes and I understand lawmakers have signaled to the president that the health care debate is over for this year.
Had these laws been enacted we would be working in a very different health care environment than the present state. Regardless of change in legislation at the state or national level, or the ability of a patient to pay for care, it’s our job to take care of them – they depend on us.
Many have asked what we would do if the Senate legislation had passed and my answer is simple – the same thing we are doing today – engaging every one of our caregivers in improving the quality of care we deliver, making it as easy as possible for patients to get appointments with us and creating the best possible experience for our patients, their families and our caregivers.
Every year our costs for supplies, drugs and labor go up by 4-5 percent and our payments from Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies go up 1-2 percent. That means that we must improve our performance by ~ 3 percent every year just to stay at steady state. In each of the past 4 years, our caregivers have been asked to see more patients in our existing space or reduce the costs of our services to make up for that 3 percent gap between expenses and payments, and you have done it. How? By coming up with and implementing more than 40,000 improvement ideas.
Your ideas have helped us improve quality, eliminate waste, identify gaps in our processes and work more efficiently. The impact of our other strategic initiatives (urgent care expansion, specialty pharmacy venture, primary care expansion, the new ER at HealthAlliance Hospital, Shrewsbury ambulatory surgery center, bed expansion at the Medical Center, etc.) have had less of an impact than the constant infusion of improvement ideas you have generated and implemented.
The leadership team at UMass Memorial is extremely proud of this accomplishment. I don’t think there is another organization in Massachusetts that can boast of implementing 40,000 ideas in such a short period. It is our secret sauce and what will allow us to stay ahead of the decrease in payments for medical care that are looming on the horizon. Thank you very much for your commitment to innovation and our Idea System.
The next time Congress debates health care, I hope lawmakers will work together in a bipartisan fashion to help stabilize health care costs and coverage, and create opportunities for the uninsured to join the marketplace. Patients need to be confident that the coverage they have today will still be available to them in two months or even one year from now.
But I know — no matter what happens — if we stay focused on encouraging and implementing the ideas of our caregivers and improving quality, access and patient/caregiver experience, we will be just fine.
On another note, I just finished Epic Super User training. I remain absolutely convinced that switching to Epic will go down as one of the best decisions we ever made. You probably won’t agree with that statement on October 1 – go lives are always difficult – but come New Year’s Eve I think you will be grateful and join me in celebrating our Epic team along with the New Year.
Thanks for all your great ideas and for taking great care of our patients and each other.