Cincinnati Children's Blog

Win, win — Health care reform from within

James M. Anderson, President and CEO

Seems like everywhere I go, people ask me about health care reform like I have some inside track. But as I said at a Town Hall meeting last month with Sen. Sherrod Brown, I’m not taking one side of the aisle over the other on this one.

We need reform. But the thing that’s most missing from the  debate so far is what we at Cincinnati Children’s believe should be the number one goal of reform: improved health for all Americans.

It sounds simple. It sounds obvious. But so far, it has been neither.

What we know is that there are steps that can, and should, be taken now — with or without legislation — to improve the quality of the care, which in turn will lower costs.

None of the proposed reform measures addresses quality. None of the proposals will eliminate the annual toll of 300 million medication errors. None will eliminate pneumonia caused by ventilators. None focuses on the singular goal of better health for all Americans. We can, and we must, dedicate ourselves and our country to this compelling vision.

Many health care providers have taken steps in recent years to improve quality of care. Outcomes have varied, but one thing is consistent – we can make care safer, we can improve the experience, we can make it more efficient.

The work is not easy.  It takes commitment and a willingness to change.  At Cincinnati Children’s, we looked outside health care to learn from other high-risk industries. We’ve learned there is a science to improvement and we’ve trained leaders and frontline staff to use it.  We’ve involved families in helping us design systems that meet their needs and improve the care experience.  And we measure outcomes for everything we do.

We have eight years of data to prove it works.  Just a few of the achievements:

  • Reduced surgical site infections by 60 percent
  • Decreased ventilator-associated pneumonia by 70 percent
  • Reduced serious safety events by 70 percent
  • Improved patient flow to increase bed capacity 15 percent
  • Reduced unnecessary hospitalizations for common conditions such as asthma and bronchiolitis

We have the power today to reform our health delivery model from within, leading to improved quality of life (kids spend less time in the hospital); improved quality of care (fewer infections and disease); and lower cost (we’ve saved about $14 million in health insurance claims in just a couple years).

Translate these savings across country and we have a win-win: healthier outcomes for millions and lower costs in the billions.

Health care reform is complicated. Real quality improvement can not exist without transparency. Transparency needs to occur among providers so we can learn from one another, and with the public so they can begin to decipher what quality of care really means.

It’s a win-win. Investing in improving quality and safety is the right thing to do for patients, and happily, it’s also the smart thing to do for the business of health care. Other industries know the link between high quality and cost effectiveness; we’re just learning that in health care.

This will lead us where we want to go — whether we’re patients, caregivers or health care executives. It will mean improved health for all Americans.

James M. Anderson was President and CEO of Cincinnati Children’s from 1996 to 2009 and remains an advisor to Michael Fisher, current President and CEO of Cincinnati Children’s. Mr. Anderson is the chairman of the Cincinnati Branch Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and Chair of Cincy Tech. His dedication to quality and safety during his tenure as president and CEO laid the foundation for the work that the Anderson Center continues at Cincinnati Children’s.


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