In early September, the Institute of Medicine published its most recent report on the state of healthcare in the U.S. Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America, identifies three major “imperatives for change: the rising complexity of modern health care, unsustainable cost increases, and outcomes below the system’s potential. You can download a free, prepublication .pdf version of this 450 page report before it is out in print.
The committee explored in detail some of the pressing needs of the system. They are convinced that we must move toward a healthcare system that learns from itself as rapidly as possible or the system is likely to self-destruct. We must learn how to incorporate research results more quickly, we must learn to change delivery systems that cost too much, we must move the system closer to its highest potential. In short, we must develop a culture of “continuous improvement to produce the best care at lower cost.”
FierceHealthFinance focused on the reported waste of $750 Billion a year (about 30% of the cost of healthcare in the U.S.) as one of the most important things to change. While that number is appalling, the fact that the figure reported was from 2009 is the most striking thing about it to me. Our system has become so complex that it takes three years before we know what it costs. We are constantly behind the curve, and must find ways to speed up the process of information assessment, dissemination, and implementation for change.
The behavioral healthcare system is often far behind the curve in implementing change that might be more productive. The public health and public behavioral health systems are deep in conversation and pilot programs related to integrating physical and behavioral healthcare. Suzanne Bennett Johnson, Ph.D., current President of the American Psychological Association (APA) identified the need to increase psychology’s role in integrated care as a primary thrust of her presidency; her presidential address also focused on this issue. I wonder how many mental health providers in the private sector are even willing to consider what changes to their work such an integrated system might bring.
Take a look at the very brief summary of the IOM report to see if you would like to read the whole thing. What do you think we need to do in behavioral healthcare to begin to address some of these issues?