Don't Fear the Future of Healthcare - It's Working

William "Kip" Schumacher, MD, for HealthLeaders Media, March 3, 2011

Am I the only one excited about the future of healthcare?

With all the prevailing pessimism about America's "dysfunctional" health system, optimists (and I am one) sometimes feel stranded on our own lonely islands.  

It's not that we don't know what the challenges are.  I have been practicing emergency medicine for over 30 years, and there is no better place to absorb the myriad obstacles to delivering quality, cost-effective care than a hospital emergency department. 

Shrinking budgets, rising costs, an aging population, escalating patient morbidity, an inadequate supply of clinicians, and the swirling changes brought about by health reform are all legitimates causes for concern.

Yet to me the arc of the last 30 years is encouraging. Despite every curve ball that has been thrown their way, healthcare administrators and clinicians today are delivering increasingly better care in a more cohesive environment. With more emphasis on quality, on reducing errors, and on working in coordinated clinical teams, I would rather be a patient today – particularly in a hospital – than at any time in the past.

And there is an opportunity now to take another major step forward.   Until recently, providers as a general rule have claimed quality as their turf and payers have laid claim to costs.  

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