Last week I spent time with my elderly parents helping them negotiate the health care system. Even as a physician, it was difficult for me to work through the myriad of providers, health care workers, medicines, tests and insurance paperwork. We spent a lot of time in waiting rooms, on telephone hold and got a lot of instructions that were difficult to follow and understand. It was a front row seat to what families all across our state and country are facing.
It was also an important reminder. In Oregon, as we work to transform our health care system to one that does a better job of keeping people healthy and managing costs, we must always remember to put the person first.
I think that people have a right to expect certain things from the system that their very lives depend upon, such as:
- Health care professionals should be available when they are needed – whether that's a doctor, a nurse practitioner, or a community health worker. That could be in person, over the phone, or on email, during hours that work for working people.
- Care of all kinds should be coordinated. Patients should expect that their mental health provider and physical health provider are working together for their well being; that specialists and primary care clinicians are working in tandem.
- Instructions should be clear and easy to understand – whether it's a prescription for medicine or a chronic disease management plan. Attention needs to be paid to individuals’ unique cultural and linguistic needs.
- Providers of all kinds should be working with patients for total health, not just medical care. That means looking at the environmental or lifestyle drivers of health for things such as asthma or diabetes.
These are just some of the things that are important. Under the vision of health care transformation, we will also have a system within which it is fulfilling and easy for health care providers to work, and one in which they will have more flexibility and incentives to do the kind of common sense care that brought them to the healing profession in the first place.
Under the kind of system we are working toward, patients do better, providers do better, and costs are lowered. Because when we work for better health, that reduces waste and inefficiency in the system and people are less likely to need the expensive care that comes when conditions are poorly managed or care is not coordinated.
It's time to make the push towards health care that truly works for everyone involved. As Governor Kitzhaber has said many times, if any state can do it, Oregon can. And I believe we will.