Innovations in Healthcare

Report: Hospitalists Can Trim Wasteful Healthcare Spending


An author of a report that estimates the national cost of unnecessary or wasteful healthcare at $750 billion per year hopes its findings will serve as a platform for hospitalists to spearhead improvements in healthcare delivery in the U.S.

The Institute of Medicine report, "Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America" [PDF], offers 10 broad recommendations that include reforming payment, adopting digital infrastructure, and simplifying transitional care. The paper was published earlier this month by a national committee of healthcare leaders, including Gary Kaplan, MD, FACP, FACMPE, FACPE, chairman and chief executive officer of Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle.

"The hospitalist is in a very unique position," Dr. Kaplan says. "They really are at the nexus of what we see as several of our key recommendations going forward."

In particular, Dr. Kaplan notes that healthcare delivery organizations should develop, implement, and fine-tune their "systems, engineering tools and process-improvement methods." Making such changes would help to "eliminate inefficiencies, remove unnecessary burdens on clinicians and staff, enhance patient experience, and improve patient health outcomes," he says.

"The hospitalists and the care teams with which the hospitalist connects are very critical to streamlining operations," Dr. Kaplan adds.

Many of the report's complaints about unnecessary testing, poor communication, and inefficient care delivery dovetail with the quality initiatives and practice-management improvements HM groups already push, Dr. Kaplan adds. To advance healthcare delivery's evolution, hospitalists should view the task of reform as an opportunity, not a challenge.

"There are very powerful opportunities for the hospitalist now to have great impact," he says. "To not just be the passive participants in a broken and dysfunctional system, but in many ways, [to be] one of the architects of an improved care system going forward."

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