Phila. area can lead the way in transforming health care
Daniel J. Hilferty is president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross
The launch of the new health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, on Tuesday will mark a long-anticipated step forward in the effort to reform our health-care system.
Painting the outcome of this and other changes as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a broad brush is impossible. But one thing is certain: With millions of Americans uninsured and health-care costs continuing to grow, something needs to change. While the ACA may not be perfect, it's the law. Insurers, doctors, and patients must work together to successfully implement it.
Personally, I believe the Philadelphia region can be at the forefront of this exciting opportunity to make the country's health-care system more efficient, less costly, and better for patients and their families. Here's how I believe we can get there:
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Innovation. I see no reason why the Philadelphia area can't be transformed into the Silicon Valley of health-care innovation. Our region's world-class medical facilities, renowned universities, and research centers make us uniquely positioned to fulfill that mission.
As a step in that direction, Independence Blue Cross (IBC) has teamed up with Penn Medicine to sponsor DreamIt Health, the first Philadelphia-based nationwide search and business accelerator for unique health-care start-ups that apply technology to the challenges of keeping people healthy and providing more effective, affordable care.
Coordination. Our focus as insurance companies and medical-care providers must be on a coordinated approach to providing better-quality care, not just more of it.
This means being open to more performance-based compensation for hospitals and doctors. We have to incentivize treatment that is both efficient and effective. Physicians and facilities should be rewarded for improving the quality of care and affordability.
New primary-care models such as patient-centered "medical homes," which empower primary-care doctors who manage medical teams to focus on keeping chronically ill patients well, allow for more coordinated care and better results. These innovations should be prioritized and rewarded.
Collaboration. The days of health-care information silos are over. Already, we're seeing more productive partnerships among research institutions, doctors, hospitals, patients, and insurance companies.
In fact, we've partnered with Penn Medicine on cancer studies and ways to get people to take their medicine, including pill bottles that beep when it's time to take drugs. We're also collaborating with New York University on diabetes research to spot cases of undiagnosed diabetes and to predict prediabetes in patients.
Additionally, we need to adopt cutting-edge technologies that help primary-care doctors, specialists, insurance companies, and patients more easily and securely exchange information. This will create a more efficient way to deliver care, which benefits everyone.
Successfully implementing large-scale changes will require everyone with a stake in a patient's care to work together more than ever before.
Creativity. The term marketplace has to mean something. Moving forward, insurance companies will still provide coverage through employers, as we have for decades, but we must also be willing to find creative ways to inform individual consumers of the wide range of choices now available to them.
We want people to find the experience of shopping for health insurance to be as straightforward and easy as using a travel site to find a hotel room.
Last month, IBC launched the Independence Express - an Internet-enabled mobile education and retail experience that is already rolling into local communities and helping people understand the ACA and what it means for them.
This tractor-trailer is outfitted with computers, educational games, and meeting space, and it is staffed with knowledgeable professionals. It's just one example of how we are empowering people to better understand their health-care choices. (For more information, visit www.ibx.com/careforme.)
Tuesday's launch of the new insurance marketplaces will not be without its challenges. Yet I'm confident that the Philadelphia region has the tools and resources to meet those challenges and to take advantage of this opportunity to help redefine health care in this country.
Daniel J. Hilferty at email@example.com.