Smarter medical systems can improve life, business

What consumers want is health, so providers learn to prevent illness

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In health care delivery, this is an exciting time for PeaceHealth and Clark County.

PeaceHealth has already stepped into the world of innovation as it works to improve its delivery of coordinated care. Our delivery system over the past two years has been rapidly forming into an integrated system of physicians, providers and hospitals that are fully aligned on clinical and service goals toward improving community health.

PeaceHealth leaders have set systemwide performance targets that encourage each PeaceHealth hospital and clinic to harvest best practices from across the system. For example, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center is recognized for its best practice in hand hygiene, and its approach will be shared across our system.

PeaceHealth’s proposed partnership with Catholic Health Initiatives will bring additional economies of scale, operational and financial strength to PeaceHealth. The partnership, expected to be implemented this year, will combine seven Catholic Health Initiatives hospitals in Washington and Oregon with nine PeaceHealth hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. It will add quality and expertise to the PeaceHealth system and the communities we serve.

Looking ahead, the health care system will increasingly focus on wellness. Most hospital systems across the country have limited experience in the delivery of wellness to the patients and communities they serve. Take obesity as an example. In Clark County, 68 percent of our community is either overweight or obese. Children are particularly affected.

A wellness system to address the problem of obesity focuses on prevention. It encourages and supports healthful eating, access to good food, exercise in schools, and healthy school nutrition programs as well as family support and access to health care. When prevention fails, health care moves into the acute phase -- treatment and chronic care management -- to address the complications of obesity, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and social isolation.

I know that when health care reform is discussed it seems like an overwhelming topic. But the goal, no matter how we get there, is really focused on what you, as a health care consumer, want for yourself and your family.

In health care circles, we call this the “triple aim.”

• Aim one: Improve the health of the population, which means prevention and early intervention.

• Aim two: Enhance the patient’s experience of care, including access, quality and safety. That requires coordination and communication to involve patients in their own care.

• Aim three: Reduce the costs of care while improving the health outcomes of the populations we serve.

Sound like a tall order? It is, and that’s why PeaceHealth and so many other health systems are working diligently to strengthen all the elements needed to achieve the “triple aim” goals while redesigning care and communications to deliver what you value the most: your health. It changes the value proposition from the best acute care to the best health care overall.

Across the country, we are seeing that we can control health care costs by improving prevention.

Through coordinating all aspects of care, the patient becomes the center of the health care wheel.

Through new information systems, everyone on the health care team has the right information at the right time to care for the patient. This means better information, evidence-based care and less duplication.

Everyone is on the same page with you -- the patient -- which means fewer errors and a better patient experience.

Renate “Rainy” Atkins is chief operating officer at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.