By Diane Carman
It’s much easier to develop innovative health care initiatives in Colorado because “we’re not having the conversation about who’s the biggest Bolshevik,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet at the opening of the Healthy Transitions Colorado collaborative Monday.
The goal of the collaborative over the next few years is to save $80 million in health care costs, prevent 8,700 hospital re-admissions and keep people out of the hospital a cumulative 34,000 days, Bennet said, all the while providing “greater care for the people you serve and the people I serve.”
Because Coloradans have shown a willingness to address the challenges in health care delivery without engaging in petty politics, “clearly we’ve been able to provide better care without a sickle or hammer hanging outside the door.”
Bennet gave the keynote address for the event, which launches a two-year effort to reduce avoidable hospital re-admissions across the state.
Representatives of about 45 organizations involved in health care participated in the event at the Anschutz Medical Campus. The lead partners in the project are the Center for Improving Value in Health Care, the Colorado Hospital Association, the Colorado Health Care Association, the Colorado Rural Health Center and the Colorado Foundation for Medical Care.
Dr. Eric Coleman, professor of medicine and head of the Division of Health Care Policy and Research at the University of Colorado Denver, described common problems with the U.S. health care system to the audience, drawing nods of agreement.
While providers think of health care as a “system,” to the patient, he said, “no one seems to be in charge.”
Furthermore, there’s not one health care plan, but many; nobody asks the patients about their goals for their care; providers don’t work from a single list of medications; they don’t understand or attempt to overcome patients’ limits on self-care; and nobody attempts to coordinate the providers’ efforts, he said.
Improving care and reducing hospital re-admissions requires addressing these problems, Coleman said, and fundamental to that is improving patient engagement at every stage of care. Coleman earned the prestigious MacArthur “genius” fellowship in 2012 for his work in helping patients get better care after hospitalization.
Dr. Jane Brock, chief medical officer for the Colorado Foundation for Medical Care, said that while Colorado started working to address the problems in health care delivery in 2006, much work remains. Hospital readmission rates have dropped in places such as Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, but high readmission rates still occur in southeast Colorado and other rural areas around the state.
In the U.S., spending on medical care is extremely high compared to the rest of the world, while social service spending is below average, Brock said. The key to controlling health care costs and improving outcomes is bringing that ratio into better balance.