Health care is changing, and the path to accountability requires health care organizations to transform the way care is delivered.
“Our mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care to our members and the communities we serve will not change under health care reform,” says Belva Denmark Tibbs, vice president of medical operations with Kaiser Permanente.
She says more and more organizations have begun using integrated care delivery models, in which physicians partner with the health plan insurer to provide patient-centered care that uses evidenced-based medicine to identify the best treatment for patients.
Smart Business learned more from Denmark Tibbs about how integrated systems are transforming how health care is delivered.
What are the challenges of transforming health care delivery?
The biggest challenge is that money is tight. All of us are being asked to do more with less. In addition to economic pressures, we are also dealing with an aging population that has unique health care concerns. In the Cleveland area, we have high numbers of overweight individuals who have diabetes, asthma, etc. We have more individuals with multiple sclerosis in this region than some of the other areas in which Kaiser Permanente is located.
When you combine these health care issues, the economic pressures and, of course, the health care policy changes that are occurring, you have this confluence of pressures that cause all of us in the health care industry to realize that we have to change. Our reality will change; health care as we know it will change in the next few years.
What solutions are out there?
Companies should look at a variety of solutions. The first is the relationship between the primary care physician and the patient. You’ll hear terms such as patient-centered ‘medical home.’ That means we are putting patients in the driver’s seat in terms of their health care. We’re talking about forming partnerships with the doctor. There was a time when people looked at the physician as being all-knowing. But with the influx of information that is available through the Internet and TV, patients are becoming more informed.
We have to respond to that. Via our website, kp.org, patients have access to information about many of the diseases that I mentioned earlier. Patients know, for example, that by making simple lifestyle choices, such as eating healthier, being active, knowing certain key indicators (e.g., cholesterol level, blood pressure, glucose level and BMI), they can have a positive impact on their health.