01 Mar 2013

Health-Care Forum's Rx for US System


Shape up, people! That was the message for both the health-care industry and the public at a November forum of more than 150 medical practitioners, health-industry executives, academics, and others who gathered at HBS. Titled "Healing Ourselves: Addressing Healthcare's Innovation Challenge," the event was chaired by HBS professors Richard Hamermesh and Robert Huckman, with colleagues from Harvard University and Harvard Medical School.

The goal of the gathering and the focus of its panels, said Hamermesh, were to come up with ways "to reduce costs, increase value, and improve quality." Citing a survey of US health-care executives conducted for the forum, Huckman reported that 55 percent of respondents believed that, considering quality and cost in combination, America is losing ground relative to other nations. But problems are near universal, as HBS professor Regina Herzlinger noted, with per capita health-care costs rising faster than per capita GDP in all but a few countries. The gathering seemed to agree that all parties shared blame for the US system's problems, including the American people for their unhealthy lifestyles.

Moderating a panel on "Improving the Patient Experience," HBS professor Clay Christensen analogized that just as the computer industry evolved from massive mainframes to customer-friendly personal devices, "We need to bring technology to outpatient clinics and patients' homes so they can provide more and more sophisticated care." Bishop William Lawrence University Professor Michael Porter offered several ideas for coordinating and economizing, including assigning patient care to holistic, integrated practice units, instead of treatment by specialties and discrete services.


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