Sunday, January 28, 2007

No easy fix for healthcare

Last week, President Bush offered his plan for getting our runaway healthcare system under control, which, in turn, signaled the commencement of the usual hubbub that arises anytime anyone messes with the status quo in this country. Unfortunately, the debate over the efficacy of the President's plan distracts us from the main issue: our healthcare system, like many others around the world, is going to "hit the wall" in the near future.

We must fundamentally change our healthcare system, say the experts at IBM's Center for Healthcare Management. Its costs are out of control. We already spend 16 percent of the nation's GDP, more than $2 trillion annually and more than any other country, on healthcare. In 2005, they point out, that amount was more than the entire individual GDPs of all but five of the world's nations. Further, we don't get a very good return on our investment. The World Health Organization ranks the performance of the U.S. healthcare system 37th in the world.

The problem is that we need systemic change that must be approached in a systematic way (remember Deming). To get an idea of what that would entail, you might want to read IBM's white paper, Healthcare 2015. Editing it gave me an entirely new perspective on the healthcare dilemma; it also made the shortcomings of the anemic solutions we're typically offered dismaying clear.

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