Great Op-Ed from Paul O’Neill on REALLY Improving Healthcare

Op-Ed Contributor – Health Care’s Infectious Losses –

FINALLY, a major contribution to the discussion about how we need to improve the quality of care delivery. That’s how we are truly going to bring costs down – by improving delivery, not just paying people less for the same old waste (and a bit of value).

O’Neill asks (click through to the NY Times to read the whole thing):

HEALTH care reform seems to be on the way, whether we want it or not. So I have been asking questions about the various proposals. Here is a sampling.

Which of the reform proposals will eliminate the millions of infections acquired at hospitals every year?

Which of the proposals will eliminate the annual toll of 300 million medication errors?

Which of the proposals will eliminate pneumonia caused by ventilators?

Which of the proposals will eliminate falls that injure hospital patients?

Which of the proposals will capture even a fraction of the roughly $1 trillion of annual “waste” that is associated with the kinds of process failures that these questions imply?

So far, the answer to each question is “none.”

Amen to that. This should be a non-partisan issue, the need to improve the delivery of care. These same problems exist in the U.S., Canada, and the UK, so it’s not a matter of which payer system is best. In the UK, they discuss MRSA and c-diff rates in the news all the time and you never hear about it here. We *know* how to fix these problems, as O’Neill writes in the Times. The solutions just aren’t spread widely enough yet? Why not? We could go through a hearty “5 whys” analysis on that one…

We can debate all we want the issues of how to provide access — the sad reality is we’ll be providing MORE access to an unsafe healthcare system.

I don’t mean to be alarmist. It’s not guaranteed you’ll be harmed in a hospital. But the odds are far worse than they need to be. More on this coming later this week, a blog post I had already written about medical errors and why it’s a cultural issue, not a technical one.

Great job, Paul O’Neill, getting this into the Times. I hope it’s heard and given its due attention.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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