January 19, 2017

Innovation Can Pave the Road Ahead for Health Reform

Advancing our goals in the midst of uncertainty

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By Wael Barsoum, MD

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The struggle to bring about health reform in the United States – greater access, better outcomes, reduced cost – has been a long and winding road. And the outcome of the presidential election this year has some in the healthcare industry fearing more obstacles ahead.

While there are differing opinions on what ramifications the election will have on healthcare in America, I think the providers of care and all the people we serve need to remember that we have faced major changes and challenges before and not only survived them but improved our system of care along the way.

As president of Cleveland Clinic Florida, a practicing orthopaedic surgeon, a researcher and an inventor, I truly believe in our ability to make transformational innovations to advance the goals of health reform, even when the road ahead is fogged with uncertainty. It won’t be easy but we can do it.

First, let’s look back to gain some perspective. In the 1980s the implementation of the diagnosis-related group (DRG) classification system for hospital procedures and services and the prospective payment system sent shudders through the healthcare industry. It was a transformational change. Everyone from physicians to hospital management teams to insurance claims administrators faced major hurdles in adapting to the changes, and then striving to refine the systems and make them better. Now it’s hard to imagine how we could run our healthcare system without these tools.

More recently, the adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) forced major change again. Despite the struggle to implement new systems, few can argue that EMRs will help us achieve more coordinated care, better outcomes and greater efficiencies in the long run. As pioneers in the use of electronic medical records more than a decade ago, we at Cleveland Clinic know it was a change for the better.

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The Affordable Care Act brought another sea change to our system. As we work through its implementation, potential changes and now the prospect of repeal of certain parts of the law, we continue to forge ahead with new models such as accountable care organizations and bundled payment models to align providers, payers and patients to work together toward more preventive care, more efficient care, and less costly care.

Transformative innovation in clinical technology is also marching ahead at a healthy pace to help achieve the objectives of health reform. Things like telemedicine, advances in outpatient surgery, and immunotherapy for patients with cancer are just a few of many examples.

Right here in Broward County, we also need to remember how much we have going for us when it comes to healthcare. Our own Cleveland Clinic Florida is now ranked number one in South Florida by U.S. News & World Report, a title that has typically been held by Miami institutions.

The region has an abundance of healthcare professionals and a full spectrum of acute care, primary care, long-term care, assisted living and home care options. We have quality higher education institutions, including degree programs for a variety of health professionals. And we have a growing technology and biomedical sector right in our backyard – a fertile incubator for transformative innovation in medical devices, pharmaceuticals, technology and other areas.

With this track record of adapting to change and working through uncertainty, I am confident in our region’s and our nation’s ability to continue working toward the common goals of health reform — greater access, better outcomes, reduced cost. I remain optimistic about our potential to achieve what needs to be done to advance healthcare and improve and save lives.

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Learn to become a physician leader with Cleveland Clinic Global Executive Education programs, including The Cleveland Clinic Way: IntensivesSamson Global Leadership Academy and the Executive Visitors’ Program.

This opinion first appeared on the editorial pages of the Sun-Sentinel on Nov. 28, 2016. It is rerun with permission.

Dr. Barsoum is President of Cleveland Clinic Florida and staff in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

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