Op-Ed

Helping patients be better healthcare consumers

KEELEY
KEELEY

Healthcare reform is happening at a rapid pace, and every American can expect to feel the effects as the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented over the next five years. The most significant piece of healthcare legislation since Medicare was established 50 years ago, it will change the way healthcare is delivered — and paid for.

This brave new world of healthcare will shift the focus from the traditional third-party payers — the insurance fee-for-service and HMO models where patients had little knowledge or involvement in cost and charges — to a consumer-oriented approach. More than ever, patients will want to know not just the cost of procedures, but the value they get, including the quality of care and the experience and outcomes of prior patients.

Baptist Health is consistently top-ranked for quality and safety among the nation’s best hospitals and health systems. Our five-star patient ratings, U.S. News & World Report rankings and A-rated safety scores are well known to those in the communities we serve.

Our five-decade history of fiscal responsibility as a private, not-for-profit charitable organization has positioned us to continue to deliver the highest quality healthcare to improve the health and well being of individuals in our community irrespective of their socio-economic status.

Our commitment, based on our belief that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, stands firm: bring clarity, reassurance and compassion to our patients, our employees, our doctors and the communities we serve.

We anticipated the shift in the healthcare industry and began planning for this evolution, even as we adjust to uncertainties coming out of Washington and Tallahassee.

Rather than focus solely on our hospitals, we launched wellness initiatives and emphasized primary care. We brought care closer to the patients through outpatient centers, diagnostic centers and urgent care centers. Recently we made news with the announcement of a Baptist Health medical plaza, including an urgent-care center that will open in 2016 in Miami Beach. It will eliminate the need for emergency-room visits for minor conditions or accidents.

We established the Baptist Health Medical Group, with primary-care physicians and specialists working collaboratively on wellness and preventive care. These initiatives lower the cost of service, offer value to consumers and provide patients greater choice.

Going forward we will implement greater administrative efficiency through highly coordinated patient care and collaborative partnerships with physicians. We will hone our operating efficiencies by treating patients in the least costly setting, using advances in technology for best outcomes and coordinating care to avoid unnecessary tests, procedures and duplications.

Baptist Health is embracing advanced technology, including our $430 million investment in the Miami Cancer Institute scheduled to open in 2016 at the Baptist Hospital campus. It will be the first in South Florida to offer proton therapy, an innovative treatment that targets cancer cells with pinpoint precision.

Innovation will allow us to meet our goal to make price, quality and service ratings available to anyone in a simple, user-friendly manner. Pricing information remains confusing and complicated, with co-insurances, deductibles and in-network and out-of-network coverage. Baptist Health leads on the transparency front by being one of the first healthcare systems in the country to open a consumer pricing office more than a decade ago.

We plan to leverage our technology base to improve patient care and further reduce costs. Our Telehealth Center will include virtual consults and home monitoring for patients, such as diabetics. We are developing a user-friendly Internet portal protected by biometrics for patients to access their medical records and test results, schedule visits and exams and communicate with their doctors.

The ACA has introduced concepts of value, choice, transparency and consumerism.

As patients face higher deductibles, co-pays and premiums, they’ll be searching for the best value, like shopping online for the best car value. Patients will become the ultimate healthcare consumers, as more costs shift to them and quality outcomes are made public. Baptist Health is ready.

Brian Keeley is president and CEO Of Baptist Health South Florida.

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