Recently, I had coffee with a personal friend whom I’ve known for several years. I like her personally and know she’s a good person; and we have some personal things in common. But this friend (who shall remain nameless) is also someone who has no interest whatsoever in politics or public policy, even though public policy developments have a strong influence on what she does for work (she’s highly successful in a non-health care field). In fact, she’s actively hostile to knowing about the world, except to the very limited extent that she must absolutely know certain things to do her job. She actually told me she doesn’t want to know anything about the world, and has no desire whatsoever to participate in our democracy.
Well, I have two critiques here. First, I think that, for anyone who is in an industry (which really means most industries, these days) in which rapid and dramatic public policy changes are taking place, should pay attention. That certainly applies to the health care industry right now. Comprehensive health care reform legislation, extensive reimbursement reform under Medicare, and all the activity and speculation around the federal stimulus (ARRA-HITECH) funds, are all not only in the mainstream media news these days, but also set to influence strongly how virtually everyone in health care works. So all these issue areas are really important.
Indeed, the entire operating environment around what CIOs and other IT executives, managers and leaders do day to day, is about to change, and perhaps quite dramatically. As fundamental an issue as who our patients will be, and under what conditions they’ll come into our hospitals, may be about to change. And certainly, what purchasers and payers are demanding of our provider organizations, is changing dramatically. I have long believed that CIOs and other IT executives and leaders need to become, and stay, aware of the broader industry winds constantly sweeping across our industry, to be truly effective. And if comprehensive health care insurance reform, and health care reimbursement reform, come to pass, even in a modified or compromise form (the legislative process is always complicated, of course), the results will be transformative for all of us.
And, I have to add, it is my view that we should all, as Americans, participate in the ongoing national discussion on changing the health care system. In fact, I think all of us in the health care industry have a special opportunity, to use our expertise, credentials, and experience, to help influence, and even shape, that debate. And isn’t that exciting? I think so. But regardless of whether one sees it as exciting or not, I do believe it is a special responsibility for all of us, or anyone who has special or useful knowledge, to participate in this important phase in the evolution of our industry. There is a wealth of perspectives and knowledge out there, and all points of view and types of information should contribute to the process.
And now, with legislative and policy developments set to accelerate in the next few months, we all need to pay attention, because how this all shakes out will affect every one of us—as health care professionals and as citizens.