Can Utah innovation lead the way on health care?

Published: Saturday, Dec. 15 2012 6:19 p.m. MST

Focus on the individual

Access to health care plays about a 5 percent role in a person's overall health, while public health programs make up 25 percent, genetics, 30 percent, and the remaining 40 percent is based on personal behaviors, James said. So there is much that can be done for health within the community.

Better education, he said, also leads to better health, in conjunction with better incomes and greater access to insurance programs.

"No two patients are the same," James said, adding that genetics, levels of exposure, responses, preferences, circumstances and values differ among individuals. "You have to adapt treatments to the individual."

Regulated protocols, he said, will never lead to better outcomes, but cutting waste from current procedures can and will.

To come up with a more efficient health care system, James suggested stakeholders need to better align practices, slash high rates of inappropriate care and preventable injury and death, "do what we know works," and get rid of the huge amounts of waste within the system.

The conference showcased health care leaders from various states that have implemented changes in their systems, including Oregon, which brought together historical competitors and let them battle out their own solutions — ultimately a collaborative, coordinated care organization.

In Utah, Medicaid providers are moving ahead with accountable care organizations, which will take health care delivery from a fee-per-service model, to quality-based reimbursements. The process aims to facilitate a healthier population, one that is more involved and less inclined to accrue higher costs through multiple unnecessary treatment.

"Health care is rapidly evolving," James said. "Despite what you might think, the current system is the best health care the world has ever seen."

High standards of education, strict requirements for professional licensing, medical practice founded on science and internal organizations for hospitals has led to better care delivery throughout the years, building on research and discovery.

Such delivery is proven by advances in health care, including a massive stretch in the average life expectancy. In 1900, individuals could expect to live to age 49. In 2000, that age had been extended to 77. James said health care "redefined what it meant to be a human."

He said such innovation does and must continue today.

"It is the task of every generation to take the next step ahead," James said.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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