The Healthcare Paradox: Making a Case for Change

By Laura S Kaiser

Laura S. Kaiser, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Intermountain Healthcare, discusses the challenges of transforming healthcare.

transforming healthcare

Change is a frequent refrain in the world of healthcare, especially now as providers, payers, and consumers are starting the hard slog of adapting to and digesting our nation’s healthcare reform efforts. Although difficult, change is essential and positive for an industry that faces a challenging paradox.

Last year, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies issued a report compiled by a committee of 18 prominent healthcare leaders, including Intermountain’s chief quality officer, Dr. Brent James. Their report, “Best Care at Lower Cost,” highlighted the fact that despite the explosion over the past 50 years in biomedical knowledge, innovations in therapies and surgical procedures, and management of conditions that were previously fatal, American healthcare is still falling short on quality, outcomes, cost, and equity. The report went on to identify major areas of waste when it comes to our healthcare system and estimated $750 billion is wasted each year.

If the sheer volume of dollars wasted wasn’t enough to convince us of the need to change, consider some of the eye-opening comparisons highlighted in the study:

  • If banking worked like healthcare, ATM transactions would take days.
  • If shopping were like healthcare, prices would not be posted and they could vary widely within the same store, depending on who is paying.
  • If home building were like healthcare, carpenters, electricians and plumbers would work from different blueprints and would hardly talk to each other.
  • And if airline travel were like healthcare, pilots would be free to design their own pre-flight safety checks – or not perform them at all.

The study concludes by stating that “left unchanged, health care will continue to under-perform, cause unnecessary harm, and strain national, state, and family budgets.” It also says “the actions required to reverse this trend will be notable, substantial, sometimes disruptive – and absolutely necessary.”

Intermountain Healthcare is fortunate to be well ahead of the curve in changing and transforming, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Several months ago, Leaders magazine asked me about the change process at Intermountain and about the challenges of transforming healthcare. The interview, which touched on elements of change that need to move faster, the race to scale, evidence-based clinical programs, innovation, and other related topics, can be read at: http://www.leadersmag.com/issues/2013.3_Jul/PDFs/LEADERS-Laura-Kaiser-Intermountain-Healthcare.pdf