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November 18, 2016

10 big misconceptions about health care, according to Intermountain's previous CEO

Daily Briefing

There are 10 common misconceptions about health care that hold back change in the industry, according to former Intermountain Healthcare President and CEO Charles Sorenson, Tamara Rosin reports for Becker's Hospital Review.

Speaking earlier this month at Becker's CEO + CFO Roundtable in Chicago, Sorenson said that health care leaders "recognize we live and operate in a very tumultuous time" but that he had "worked in health care for more than 40 years and [didn't] recall any time where things were status quo."              

Adapting to and capitalizing on change, Sorenson explained, requires looking below the surface to understand the reality of the health care industry. As a start, he offered 10 common misconceptions about health care.

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1. 'What matters most in health care is who gets elected.' Sorenson acknowledged that political leaders have a big effect on the industry, but stressed that it's up to the industry itself to solve health care's biggest challenges. "If health care is going to be reinvented, it has to be done by us," he said.

2. 'High-quality care costs more.' The connection between quality and cost in health care is "counterintuitive," Sorenson said. "Our experience at Intermountain shows that higher quality care leads to less costs overall for the population served"—even if it "doesn't necessarily decrease the cost of the delivery system."

3. 'High-tech tools lead to better care.' Technology can provide real benefits to patients, but in many cases new devices only increase costs without providing health benefits, Sorenson said.

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4. 'Every patient wants every treatment that could possibly help them.' High-deductible health plans and the growing importance of patient education means fewer patients want every treatment available. Paraphrasing Sorenson, Rosin writes that "fully informed patients are more likely to agree with their physicians' evidence-based treatment plans."

5. 'Physicians shouldn't be concerned with the cost of treatment.' Sorenson, a physician, recalls being taught during medical training that worrying about costs was unethical. That isn't the case today. "Protecting our patients' resources is part of our responsibility in taking care of them," he said.

6. 'Population health management is equivalent to rationing.' Population health management and value-based care are about making careful choices. Providers are not in the business of rationing, but should eliminate treatments that are high cost and don't improve patient outcomes, Sorenson said.

7. 'It's impossible to get people to change their behavior.' Just telling someone what to do isn't usually effective, Sorenson said, "but if there's a social connection they can sympathize with, they will be more willing to change." He pointed to an increase in seatbelt use as an example of how social pressures can affect behavior.

8. 'Physicians exist to create health and fix problems.' Doctors should not just be focused on healing the sick, Sorenson said. They need to work on prevention and align their efforts with goals of population health management and value-based care.

9. 'Doing well financially means doing more.' Now that health care has begun to shift away from fee-for-service, "doing well financially as a society means doing the right things for patients," Sorenson said. "That means doing things that produce better outcomes and preventing illness wherever we can."

10. 'The future of health care is bleak.' Despite challenging times, the health care industry is poised for success, Sorenson said. "To the people who despair, who think their chosen profession is becoming too difficult and is failing, I disagree," Sorenson added. "We now have an unparalleled opportunity to make health care better for the people we serve and to make it better for the people who choose this noble profession" (Rosin, Becker's Hospital Review, 11/15).

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