The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 22, 2012

Spear column: Entering health care’s new world

— Doctors will be paid differently, patient relationships will change and business as usual will be disrupted.

Those are just some of the challenges facing us in the brave new world of health care coming our way sooner than later. Many of these changes are systematic and cultural and will be required if we want to maintain the quality of care, improve access and pay for the growth in demand.

The assessment of the brave new world comes after listening to local leaders in health care. At least once a year, The Free Press Editorial Board meets with leaders at the Mayo Clinic Health System, Mankato, including CEO Greg Kutcher, Chief Administrative Officer Rich Grace and Public Affairs Director Kevin Burns.

Connected to the world renowned Mayo Clinic system, these leaders have insight into the future as their organization attempts to embrace the changes, stepping cautiously and with due time.

The brave new world certainly is different but not necessarily bad. Change is necessary in all systems but particularly needed in health care as demand will skyrocket and resources to serve that demand will remain flat or decline. That would be a huge challenge for any industry, much less one people are emotionally connected to by family and friends and their very own mortality.

Kutcher notes we have to move from a “disease management” system to a true “health care” system, one that prevents diseases from happening instead of treating them like a product in demand.

Cost of care continues to be the big issue. And while prevention is something everyone should be embracing, it alone will not make a significant dent in the cost of health care, according to Kutcher. That must come with better management of complicated diseases that now consume 70 percent of the cost. Most of those diseases are managed in a population that is over 65 years old.

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