One of the biggest challenges we face in talking about improving the health care system is that conversations often revolve around improving systems rather than helping people.
Over the past six months, we have worked to put real faces to the vision of transforming the Oregon Health Plan for better health, better care and lower costs. To that end and with the support of the Northwest Health Foundation, we created a "story bank" of articles that illustrates how real people benefit from the improvements we are working on and making.
Since March we have highlighted nearly 20 different stories of Oregonians and their experiences with the current health care system. These are stories about gaps and shortcomings in the current system. But they are also about care that works - examples that can serve as models for a state trying to improve health while keeping costs under control through prevention, coordinated care, team-based care, and reduced waste. Here are a few people you will meet:
- There is Julie Flindt, a young nurse at a Portland clinic. During her senior year in nursing school she saw all too many "bad outcomes" in the hospital emergency room - and vowed her career goal would be to do everything possible to keep people with preventable or manageable chronic illnesses such as diabetes or depression out of the hospital.
- Ted Hanberg of Happy Valley, who was hospitalized four times in four months this past winter. Each stay lasted six or more days until a Kaiser Permanente coordinated care team brought his congestive heart failure under control. At 83, he lives independently with his wife and daughter and hasn't been to the hospital in more than four months.
- Mary Lindsey, a former addict who checked herself into a Portland detox center at age 35 after years of substance abuse and repeated trips to the emergency room with stabbing or gunshot wounds. She found her way to wraparound care at Central City Concern, and now is employed and living independently in her own apartment.
- Cindy Harboldt of Grants Pass, who works at Rogue Community College and coordinates the weight loss program offered to all employees free of charge as a health benefit through their ODS health plan's Preventive Care Incentive program. During the first 13-week session, 46 employees lost an average of 10 pounds each, and Harboldt lost 30 pounds.
- Rebecca and Steven Moulton of Salem, who lost health coverage when Steven's employer could no longer afford to offer insurance to employees. The Moultons found coverage for their five children through Oregon's Healthy Kids program, and now hope to find coverage for themselves through the state's planned Health Insurance Exchange.
- MaryKaye Brady is an administrator at a health clinic in Oregon She deals with as many as 1,000 different insurance formats each year - a powerful argument for the administration simplification legislation and ongoing work supported by the Oregon Health Authority.
Through these stories, we show that health reform is not about systems and programs, it's about people and making things work better for them. You can find these and other stories on the OHA website or follow OHA's updates on Facebook and Twitter.
We also want to hear from you. If you have a story to tell about how you or your coworkers are working for better health, or if you know of community stories we should be following up on, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We'll be adding to articles weekly - and will also be talking about OHA staff and the important role we all play in striving to improve the health of all Oregonians. Together we are changing the story of our state for everyone.