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IHI: Time to Get Serious About Healthcare Quality, Costs

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2012

"It is going to take courage to name and address the large portion of American healthcare that simply does not help," Berwick said.

Another "monster," he said, is excess profit, which companies are legally allowed to make through marketing approvals of drugs. One, hydroxyprogesterone, a drug to prevent premature labor and low-birth-weight babies, costs payers such as Medicaid as much as $25,000 for a course of treatment, instead of the $300 the drug would cost if it were still allowed to be sold in its generic form.

One of the attendees, physician pathologist Lisle Eaton from St. Peter's Health Partners in Albany, NY, expressed a similar view, but said most physicians he knows, especially oncologists, "have their heads buried in the sand" about the problem.

For example, he said in between sessions, for oncologists, the desire is to treat with drugs, even if the drugs are extremely expensive, and even if these same drugs "may not have the best track record" for helping these same patients, and which carry serious side-effects as well.

"Nevertheless, they march down that road. I'm not saying they're not good doctors or they don't care, but sooner or later, we have to see quality and cost savings can go hand and hand."

In any year, attending the IHI National Forum is like—to use a cliché—drinking from a fire hose.  And this year was no different, with an impossible number of inspiring ideas for dozens of stories and columns.

I hope to capture many of them in this space in the weeks and months to come. Stay tuned.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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1 comments on "IHI: Time to Get Serious About Healthcare Quality, Costs"


knowwareman (12/13/2012 at 4:19 PM)
According to Press Ganey, ED Length of Stay is four hours, unchanged for a decade. In 1999, To Err is Human alarmed the public with 99,000 preventable deaths a year. Now that we are better at tracking, we know the number is more like 400,000 per year. The IOS says there's $750 Billion in preventable expense every year. And the Wall Street Journal says if we could eliminate that cost it would cut the U.S. deficit in half. In general, Health Care has been admiring the problem of sluggish, error-prone patient care hoping it will go away. It has not. Aggressive application of the Magnificient Seven Tools of Lean Six Sigma would move most healthcare organizations from 3-to-5 sigma in 18-24 months.