In Lessons Blog

Today, I had the opportunity to speak with the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) during is Fall 2017 collaborative meeting. It is inspiring to interact with so many mission-driven leaders, all searching together for ways to improve the American healthcare system.

Members of the alliance are not-for-profit health plans and provider groups that are accountable for the medical care of 18 million Americans. The group’s 20+ member organizations are national leaders in quality outcomes, and focused on both improving the health of communities and making coverage more affordable. Together they comprise many of the highest performing organizations in healthcare today, according to data from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) and the Medicare Advantage five-star rating system.

The day began with Ceci Connolly, the group’s president and CEO, showing two pictures that best summarized American healthcare today.

The first, of Pamplona’s famous “Running of the Bulls,” was a vivid representation of the political chaos in Washington D.C. As congress continues to debate and deliberate over the healthcare of millions, many risk being trampled in the process.

The second of a ship in powerful seas, with the massive waves serving as a metaphor for the increasing danger care providers experience in the face of extreme uncertainty.

I was impressed with how the AHCP’s work and its critical strategies so closely align with the four pillars from “Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Healthcare–And Why We’re Usually Wrong.”  Despite the danger of pursuing uncharted territory, AHCP encourages providers to take progressive risk, creating clear performance improvement goals for physician practices, publishing actionable performance data on outcomes (including patient satisfaction), and providing cost and quality information at the individual physician level. Most importantly, ACHP favors sharing best practices and opportunities to improve across all participating organizations.

By connecting clinicians across different specialties and expertise, paying for value (not just volume), embracing advanced information technology, and developing physicians leadership, the member groups are finding innovative solutions that help save lives and reduce healthcare costs.

In my comments, I mentioned a sign I once saw in an Oregon health clinic, which read in bold letters at the top “Quality, Service, Cost,” and in smaller print at the bottom: “Pick any two.” I am convinced, joking aside, that this mindset is both prevalent in healthcare delivery and an unfortunate hold over from the last century. Through improved operational approaches and modern information technology, we can achieve all three. I was reassured by the head nodding in the room, despite the steep hill we’ll need to climb to get there.

I left the session filled with optimism. For as threatening as the healthcare waters are today, I trust that the attendees will leave the conference willing and able to navigate the storms of tomorrow, far better than when they arrived.

Dr. Robert Pearl is the bestselling author of “Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Health Care–And Why We’re Usually Wrong” and a Stanford University professor. Follow him on Twitter @RobertPearlMD

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