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Are You Connected?

July 11, 2012
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George C. Halvorson’s healthcare reform how-to


I recently started to read a book on healthcare reform—appropriately titled “Health Care Will Not Reform Itself”—written by George C. Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente. The book was handed out to attendees of Halvorson’s presentation at last month’s ANI conference put on by the Healthcare Financial Management Association in Las Vegas. Although it was published in 2009, the book is as relevant today as it was then, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Accountable Care Act.
Halvorson is a proponent of connectivity (in fact, the original title of his book was “The Magic of Connectors”), which will connect doctors to each other and to their patients. “We need connectors to create the virtual functionality of team care even when the caregivers are not organized economically, functionally, operationally, or structurally as a team,” he writes.
In 2008 President Obama set a goal to reduce premium costs by $2,500 to insure a family. Halvorson believes that can be achieved with a combination of universal coverage and spending less on care delivery—not by rationing care, but by delivering the right care at the right time.
What’s Halvorson’s prescription? Technology lies at the core of his vision—not just its existence but it use. What’s exciting for me, and is pointed out in the book, is that there is a lot of experimentation going on with various connector models. Patient-centered medical homes, telephone nurse lines, Microsoft’s Health Vault, and even concierge medicine all have some kind of connector functionality. Halvorson’s vision for a perfect system of care is to have “all the information for all of the patients all of the time”—real-time, comprehensive data for everyone.
Halvorson is an optimist, and he describes his book as a user’s guide to healthcare reform. He says the book is not about Kaiser Permanente; and after all, there are not many organizations that can match Kaiser’s vertically integrated care model and health plan. But he presents what he has learned from Kaiser’s experience as a way forward for other provider organizations. I find it encouraging that the book has many examples of other organizations that are doing just that, and that every day there are new examples of organizations that are moving forward.