President Obama is a good basketball player

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. . . and some other insights from this morning's RBMA general session on health care in a sick economy, delivered by Jeff Bauer, PhD, of ASC Health Care Solutions in Chicago:

Bauer opened his speech by explaining that as a health care economist and futurist, he would give a "quick ultrasound, diagnostics, prognosis and a treatment plan" for the current health care climate. With talk of reform dominating the airways and newspapers, Bauer reminded the audience of radiology managers that nearly every candidate pitches a health care reform plan that is never enacted once that candidate becomes an elected official. "These mandates are popular," he noted, "but they're not immune to challenges. The public support isn't there, because it means dollars out of their pockets."

Bauer noted that there is no health care reform plan that can provide access for more people while improving quality and reducing costs: the three are "mathematically exclusive." And President Obama, who, anecdotally, is apparently a pretty good basketball player, has too many balls in the air down on Capitol Hill to focus on the best possible solution.

Bauer gave the health reform package a 30% chance of passing. But, he was quick to note, even if it does pass, "I can't see it being good for the health care industry . . . the dirty little secret of health reform is that any increase in the number of Americans with health insurance will be offset by a corresponding decrease in the scope of individual coverage." In other words, Americans now pay, on average, 20% of their health care costs out of pocket; Senate calculations indicate that if the health reform package passes, they may pay as much as 65%. Bad news for Americans. Bad news for the providers trying to serve them, too.

So what's Bauer's magical solution for all the ills we face? He reminded the audience of the words of Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed stakeholders can change the world." Or, put more directly: it's up to us to make changes on the homefront. We're all looking to Capitol Hill, when instead we should be looking in our own medical practices.

Here are Bauer's recommendations for how providers can usher in a new era of more effective, economical care without sweeping reforms to the health care system as we know it:

* Assume responsibility for the modernization of delivery systems
* Prepare and follow a strategic plan for the digital transformation of health care
* Implement performance improvement across the enterprise, and transform business processes accordingly
* Develop fair market employment relationships with hospital systems

And finally, where payors are concerned, remember the first law of parasitic relationships: "Don't kill the host that feeds you!"

Stay tuned for more coverage today and tomorrow of the RBMA fall educational conference!