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Cost, information, technology driving health-care change

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Escalating costs, new information and technology are driving change in the U.S. health care system, a noted medical leader told a Richmond conference crowd on Thursday.

Dr. Paul Grundy , global director of health-care transformation at IBM, said at the Virginia Health Care Conference that health care spending, which now represents 18 percent of gross domestic product, is simply “unsustainable.”

“We have lost our way,” Grundy told an audience of about 750 people at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. He noted that, while the U.S. still delivers “some of the best episodes of care” in times of crisis, the nation overall doesn’t perform well in managing the health of patients to prevent crises.

Grundy is a major proponent of a medical concept called the “patient-centered medical home,” which is gaining acceptance throughout the country. The concept is a coordinated, team-based approach that emphasizes preventive measures and follow-up.

In addition to rising costs, other trends driving change in health care are an abundance of new data that can be used to measure the performance of health-care providers and rapidly changing technology that will enable more interaction between patients and physicians.

For these changes to fully take effect, Grundy said, employers need to redesign benefits to give employees incentives to adopt healthy habits.

In addition, the health-care payment system needs to be transformed from fee for service to fee for outcomes. “When we pay fee for service, we get too many services,” he said, noting that the practice results in waste and needless expense.

Finally, he said, doctors will need new tools and technology to manage the health of patients.



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