Friday, September 26, 2008

More Talk

Two times today I had the opportunity to hear presentations about our health care system. The first presentation was at a luncheon where NY State Senator Kemp Hannon and Michael Dowling, CEO of one of our largest health care systems in New York had a conversation with the president of Farmingdale College, Dr. W. Hubert Keen and the audience. There was nothing mentioned about safety. Although the three gentlemen were personable and answered questions about today’s health care costs, I didn’t get the impression anything new would be done or any changes would be made because of this event.

The topic of medical malpractice cost was discussed and the blame went on the large payouts. Sitting at the table with people I didn’t know, I became enraged at the woman next to me who agreed that the large settlements were to blame. I turned and snapped at her and said “they have to stop injuring and killing people.” She reluctantly agreed with me too.

On the other side of me was a defense attorney who worked for a major hospital. He told me a brief story about how he “settled” a case for a large amount of money when he believed there was no malpractice. I asked him if they actually paid the patients family that much money and he said “no” it was significantly reduced.
Later at Hofstra University the panel, called “In Advance of Presidential Debate” was a Town hall meeting on health care reform.

The panel was moderated by Alvin Bessent, editorial page editor at Long Island Newsday, and featured as panelists were:

• Richard J. Umbdenstock, President, American Hospital Association;
• Mark T. Bertolini, President, Aetna Inc.;
• Michael J. Dowling, President and CEO, North Shore-LIJ Health System, and Chairman, National Center for Healthcare Leadership;
• Sara R. Collins, PhD, Assistant Vice President, Program on the Future of Health Insurance, The Commonwealth Fund; and
• David M. Weiss, PhD, Professor in Hofstra University’s Masters in Health Administration Program, and Health Professions Family Studies Department.

Here, the conversation of safety and quality came up beginning with Mr. Bertolini. He quoted the numbers of deaths and injuries due to medical errors and his concerns were followed with comments of support by Mr. Dowling.

When asked about disclosure, Mr. Dowling told the audience that there are programs around the country which are encouraging full disclosure following a medical error. He knows that evidence and experiments have been done to show that the public appreciates full disclosure and he expects to be doing more of this in the future.

Someone asked what we will be speaking about in 4 years when we once again are gathered to have this discussion about health care. Even more than 4 years ago I was on a panel and heard many conversations about disclosure being discussed at medical conferences. Proof that it does not raise the amount of medical malpractice payouts doesn’t seem to matter. Disclosure is rarely is being done for patients and their families. I am sure in 4 years, we will be right where we are today having the same conversations.

The cost of malpractice insurance came up. One panelist told the audience that medication errors are costing $9 billion a year. The panelists agreed this was not a problem.

Finally, I found the real disconnect is what I have been saying for years. The people in charge of health care decisions are too far removed from the patient. No one on the panel, making decisions in health care, ever treated a patient. Though they have been patients, I’m sure, being the CEO of a medical establishment is not the same as being a patient and an office worker, house wife or retired senior citizens. Patients and their families have a great amount to add to the dialogue, but they don’t always ask us.

To watch this program go to Educate ‘08

No comments: