Let’s take the scare out of health care and put patients, caregivers first

Op-Ed

By Brian Gragnolati, CEO and president, Atlantic Health System
Morristown | Oct 24, 2017 at 10:57 am

For most of us, interactions with physicians and other caregivers revolve around routine checkups and preventative medicine. But we can all relate to difficult health situations that arise, and know just how scary medical emergencies can be.

The best caregivers help patients and their families understand and cope with the complexities they face, from the beginning of treatment through recovery. These doctors, nurses, social workers and countless others who deliver care to our communities spend much of their time ensuring that questions get answered and patients get the care they need.

Unfortunately, a new and very scary aspect of health care is impacting families across our nation. Caregivers are not only struggling to help patients address it, but all too often, they are struggling to find answers for themselves.

The new scare in health care is originating in our nation’s capital, and will soon spill into Trenton and other statehouses. It seems we are losing the gains that had been made in expanding access to health insurance and health care.

There seems to be bipartisan agreement that making care more accessible and affordable will require a lot of hard work. At the same time, there seems to be an inability to do that work in a bipartisan manner to give patients the health care system they deserve.

In conversations with members of local communities, I hear significant fear in their voices. Fear that someone who has enjoyed insurance for years will lose it. Fear that those suffering with the burden of disease will no longer be able to obtain or afford insurance. Patients and their families now worry about how they will pay for the care they need — an unacceptable distraction for those who should be focused on healing.

As health care providers, we must take action to transform the delivery of care from a system based on volume to one of value. To make sure that care is delivered at the right time, right place and right cost.

We have already begun, in creating networks like Accountable Care Organizations to coordinate care across providers and care settings, in forging alliances with payers to control costs and enhance quality, and in shifting our focus beyond the walls of our hospitals into our communities, where health care not only begins, but where we can better control the trajectory of its future. From here, success depends on others joining the charge, supporting this new path. We need teamwork and teammates.

I urge elected officials to put patients and caregivers at the center of their health care discussions. I call upon insurers and doctors, hospitals and health systems, legislators and business leaders to work together — collaboratively and relentlessly — until we have taken the scary out of health care. I urge everyone who has the privilege to care for people to care about them by building a health care system that works for all.