MGMA chief calls on medical groups to help remake healthcare

By Bernie Monegain
07:21 AM

At about the same time the Senate Finance Committee voted 14-9 Tuesday to approve its healthcare reform bill, Medical Group Management Association Presidnet and CEO William F. Jessee, MD, took the stage in Denver to urge his audience to do their part to fix the nation's troubled healthcare system.

Information technology is a vital piece of the solution, he said. He noted that practices are using the Web in innovative ways to connect with their patients– such as the use of telemedicine, especially in rural communities, and the "huge breakthrough" in monitoring patients in their homes.

Jessee also talked about the physician's focus on patient safety, quality measures and the MGMA's leadership in administrative simplification and Project Swipe IT, which calls for the adoption of standardized, machine-readable patient ID cards by Jan. 1, 2010.

"In your own practices and in your own communities start to make these changes," he urged.

Jessee leads the 22,500-member group, made up of administrators and managers of physician practices across the nation. About 75 percent of those practices do not yet have an electronic health record system, according to the association's calculations.

"We're far from perfect, but we're making progress," he said. "I'm fired up and ready to go."

Many people question whether the country can afford healthcare reform, he noted. "Can we afford not to meet these challenges?" he asked. "I hope we're willing to make the necessary investment."

Jessee put forth  a laundry list of challenges:

  • Insuring the uninsured;
  • Controlling costs;
  • Assuring patient safety;
  • Solving manpower shortages; and
  • Sharing health information.

There are 47 million people without health insurance in the country, he noted – including 22 percent of the population in Denver..

"We all pay the price when these people become ill," he said. "It becomes a hidden tax on the rest of us. Health insurance must be made available for all Americans."

The system is costly – $2.3 trillion in 2007, or $7,600 per capita. "True healthcare reform requires payment reform," Jessee said. "Physicians need to be paid based on results."

Also, Jessee said, the industry needs to strip out administrative costs. "Over 30 cents of every healthcare dollar goes to administrative costs," he said.

"We need to have difficult conversations about end-of-life care," he added. "Twenty-five percent of Medicare costs occur at the end of life."

Jessee urged the audience to take the lead on creating a culture of safety in their own practices. To provide safe, quality care, quality measurement is essential, he said.

"Measuring everything but improving nothing is not the goal," he added.

Jessee called for training a new healthcare workforce now for 2020 and beyond and for creating financial disincentives to help change behaviors associated with the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, dangerous sexual activities, violence and lack of physical activity.

"I definitely see opportunity," he said. "We can and he must find a better way."