Home From The Editor Getting back to the issue of health care costs

Getting back to the issue of health care costs

October 2009

Published in the October 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

WITH ALL THE TALK ABOUT A PUBLIC OPTION and death panels, it’s been easy to forget about one of the main issues driving health care reform: the need to contain health care costs.

Earlier this year, for example, we heard a lot of talk about how the Obama administration was zeroing in on unnecessary readmissions as a source of major cost savings. Hospitalists took note because of the obvious implications for the specialty, but the topic has all but vanished from the media’s radar screen.

While the public debate may have stopped focusing on hospitals and physicians, we haven’t lost interest. As proof of that, you’ll see that many of the stories in this month’s issue have at their core a focus on health care financing.

Our Analysis, for instance, details the concerns private groups have with proposals to “bundle” payments for certain inpatient conditions. While Medicare demonstration projects to date have focused primarily on surgical conditions, plans are in the pipeline to use bundled payments to give hospitals and physicians the same incentive to improve patient care.

And our What Works examines how Geisinger Health System is offering “warranties” on certain types of surgery and episodes of care. If patients undergoing those procedures or episodes come back within 90 days with a preventable complication, Geisinger picks up the tab for the readmission. Hospitalists should take note because the health system is already looking for ways to apply the lessons learned from this initiative to the discharge process.

With several other articles in this issue having a similar financial focus, one message is clear: The role of health care financing will be key in any effort to reform health care, and hospitalists need to be prepared to deal with the fallout.

edoyleEdward Doyle
Editor and Publisher