For the past 20 years, I’ve been passionate about working with business coalitions who are interested in purchasing high value healthcare services. The National Business Coalition on Health has constituent members across the country, including the Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Healthcare (LVBCH), led by Thomas J. Croyle. I had the privilege of addressing their members at their 35th Annual Educational Conference! The LVBCH represents nearly 200 regional businesses ranging in size from less than 100 to several thousand employees. Their vendor partnerships provide healthcare coverage for 285,000 employees and their families.
In my closing plenary address, “Buying Value in Healthcare,” I counseled the assembled employers to dive deeper into their relationship with providers. Specifically, I encouraged the employers to ask difficult questions of the provider community, including questions related to post-op infection, hand-washing rates, unexpected return to the operating room, inexplicable differences in clinical outcomes, and inappropriate testing. I emphasized the work of people like Elizabeth Rosenthal (the well-known New York Times reporter, who wrote “Pay Until it Hurts”) and Atul Gawande (physician with a regular series in New Yorker magazine). These connections seem to resonate with the employers in the audience. Issues like unexplained clinical variation still remain a mystery to many employers who wrongly assume that all providers are created equal. I closed the conference by sharing this vision: Employers must insist on transparency and accountability from provider organizations…that is, a provider community that posts all of its outcomes, including error rates and physician-specific satisfaction scores, online. What’s your vision for public accountability of outcomes?