Don Berwick, M.D, perhaps the foremost expert in the field of quality-based health care, delivered the keynote address Thursday, May 9, during Christiana Care Health System’s 2nd Annual Value Symposium: “Transforming Health Care in America: Making the Triple Aim a Reality.”
A pediatrician by training, Dr. Berwick is the former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and founding Chief Executive Officer and President Emeritus of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
Speaking to a jam-packed audience of physicians, nurses and health care executives at the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center, Dr. Berwick said the U.S. health care system must endure the growing pains of change in order to transform into a system that provides for its citizens affordable, accessible, high-quality care.
Referencing the Affordable Care Act, Dr. Berwick said that “health care is shifting. It is at a point where the United States is trying to attach payments to quality. The transitions are tough, but the opportunity to achieve the Triple Aim is right now.”
The “Triple Aim” concept — the brainchild of Dr. Berwick — is defined as delivering health care that improves the individual patient experience, improves the health of populations and reduces the per-capita costs of care for populations. Christiana Care established the Value Institute two years ago to study and design solutions for conundrums that arise in the real world settings of health care delivery while also focusing on balancing our neighbors’ perceptions of the value of care against measurable benefits and costs.
To achieve seismic improvement in a complex system, Dr. Berwick said only two tools are necessary to be successful.
“As the scholars of Christiana Care’s Value Institute know, when you are working on improvement, you need aim and you need method,” he said. “Through aim you identify what you want to achieve. The method is the science of the system that you use in order to reach that aim.”
If the Triple Aim is achieved, health care will become more integrated, improving outcomes and reducing waste. The new and improved system will put patients first, Dr. Berwick said.
“There has never before been a better time for health care professionals to lead the reform and improvement of American health care as a system,” he said. “The transition is hard, so it is going to take real courage to walk with the public to help them find their way and what they need.”
Dr. Berwick mentioned several places across the nation where innovation has resulted in more affordable high-quality care. For example, in Alaska, a special telemedicine cart has enabled a team of health care professionals to capture vital patient information and provide quality care to patients from remote locations. The technology has cut down on the need for wait times for specialists and has saved Alaskans more than $6 million annually in travel expenses.
“I am also inspired and impressed by what I am seeing here at Christiana Care,” Dr. Berwick added. “I can tell you that your organization has the right pieces in place to bring about real change.”
Following Dr. Berwick’s talk, Christiana Care President and CEO Robert J. Laskowski, M.D., MBA, moderated an expert panel in a discussion about the challenges and solutions to achieving the Triple Aim.
“Dr. Berwick is one of the world’s great thought leaders, and he came here to help stimulate us so we can deliver better value,” Dr. Laskowski said. “Care is valuable if it makes a positive difference in people’s lives, in ways that they and our society can afford.”
In addition to Dr. Berwick, the panel included:
- Bettina Riveros, health policy adviser to Gov. Jack Markell and chair of the Delaware Health Care Commission.
- Former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. “Pete” du Pont IV, current board member of the Delaware Public Policy Institute.
- Stephen J. Kushner D.O., FAAFP, president of the Medical Society of Delaware and a physician at the Medical Group of Christiana Care’s Hockessin Family Medicine Office.
- Timothy J. Gardner, M.D., executive director of the Christiana Care Value Institute, medical director of Christiana Care’s Center for Heart and Vascular Health and former national president of the American Heart Association.
“To have a truly transformative health care system, we need to have much better coordination of care,” said Dr. Gardner, whose center recently established an innovative unit to fast-track cardiac patients from the emergency department so they can receive timely specialized treatments. “Better coordination of care will reduce unnecessary care and help our health system to achieve the Triple Aim.”