SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's governor has a vision of a healthy state with healthy people and an even healthier bottom line.
"Utahns will pioneer health care innovation and reform, harnessing the power of collective effort and market principles, as they strive to become the healthiest people in the nation," Gov. Gary Herbert said.
Herbert brought together nearly 500 state leaders in business, community, health care, education and government on Friday for Utah's first Health Innovation Summit, to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive plan that will guide Utah's health care system reform efforts over the next several years.
The work session, held at the Grand America hotel, was a continuation of various plans Utah already has in motion — including the Utah Health Insurance Exchange, All Payer Claims database and the Clinical Health Information Exchange — to deflect rising costs and what Herbert called infringing federal mandates.
"It is a good beginning and certainly is not the end," Herbert said, adding that Utahns have to take an interest in their own health care in order to get the best outcomes.
Brett McIff, physical activity coordinator for the Utah Department of Health said that good health policies can create healthful environments and result in healthful choices, which in turn, produce healthy people.
"We live in a society where you have to have tough conversations with our associates," said Scott Hymas, CEO of RC Willey. In the process of incorporating an on-site medical clinic with a salaried physician, he said he had to tell people in his company, "people are tired of paying for your poor health choices."
Hymas was one of several Utah CEO's who spoke about balancing the health and wellness of their employees with today's increasing health care costs.
"I can't change the government or the world but I'm working on what we can do (at RC Willey) to make a difference," he said.
While the federal government and state officials have similar goals of delivering health care, Herbert said the role of government needs to be questioned. He wants to find ways to stabilize and/or reduce rising costs, increase accessibility and opportunity for residents of the state and increase the overall quality of health care.
"At the end of the day, it really is about people," he said, adding that policies and red tape often get in the way of delivering a good product. "There are always alternative ways to do things."
Herbert chided the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which he said is a "one-size-fits-all approach" that does not fit Utah's unique needs. He said everyone knows what the problems are (rising costs), "but everyone has different opinions as to what should be done to fix those problems."
Michael Leavitt, former Utah Gov. and Health and Human Services Secretary in the Bush administration, said Utah already leads the nation in a number of ways when it comes to health care. He said that all 50 states are poised to "make a meaningful contribution" to the health care situation in the country.
"Utah established itself as an early leader in health system reform," Leavitt said, referring to the Health Insurance Exchange. "If the state doesn't move forward, the federal government will."
He said regardless of the solutions, "health care is a necessity" and "an economic imperative" in America.
"This is an era of change and you can fight it and die, accept it and have a chance or lead it and prosper," Leavitt said.
The group held a series of panel discussions to address issues such as provider incentives to produce better outcomes, cost containment, health information and more. All of it was designed to produce strategies that will feed into the governor's long-term health plan.
Panelists, which included representatives from Utah businesses, health care industries and government, will continue to meet over the next several months to develop a comprehensive approach to health care reform in Utah.
Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen called the undertaking "a daunting challenge," but one that can be solved.
"Almost every industry has confronted this problem," he said, referring to the need for heightened quality, lower costs and more access to health care.
"The solution almost always emerges from people who use it to solve the simple issues," he said in a video message to the group. "You have to have the faith to get those problems solved."11 comments on this story
Christensen said that instead of expecting hospitals to become cheaper or clinicians to take a pay cut, technological options should be presented in lower-cost settings, such as out-patient clinics.
"I have often said Utah's greatest natural resource is its people," Herbert said. "I have tremendous confidence that by harnessing the collective intelligence and good will of the stakeholders in the health care realm, we can improve upon our current reform efforts, continue to guide the national debate, and find new solutions which will improve the lives of Utahns, and, potentially, people all over the world."