To reverse Americas unsustainable health-care costs, Congress must adopt more refined, nimble strategies and get tough in the face of those pushing to keep the status quo, according to Dr. Donald M. Berwick, a leader in the fight to improve medical care and wellness in the United States.
Policymakers are dealing with health care with very thick mittens on, so we need new leaders with new ideas, skills and voices, Berwick said on Tuesday at the quarterly Healthcare Improvement Leadership Seminar Series held in Blackman Auditorium. The event was sponsored by Northeasterns Healthcare Systems Engineering Program.
Berwick, the countrys former Medicare and Medicaid administrator, said that when Congress does act, it often does so at the expense of the nations poorest and most vulnerable.
It is inevitable, in my view, that the safety net for the poor will be under siege, he said. The poor dont vote and they dont have lobbyists, so they dont have a say in this.
To prevent changes that hurt rather than improve health care in America, students and professionals in the fields of health care and systems engineering need to speak out and offer new, bold and innovative solutions, he said.
All I can say is that your voices help. In Washington, the squeaky wheels get the grease and we need a lot of new wheels.
Berwicks lecture, delivered to a wide audience of students and professionals in health and engineering fields from across the Boston area, stressed the need for broad changes in health care to improve six areas of the health-care field: safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency and equity. President Obamas signature health-care law, the Affordable Care Act, helps to accomplish those goals, he said, by creating new tools to provide better care in those areas.
Were at a very historic time in the progress of health care in our nation, Berwick said. Were on the path at last and last among Western democracies of making health care a human right.
James Benneyan, a professor of industrial engineering and director of the Healthcare Systems Engineering Program, said Berwick was a powerful speaker about the ability of the local medical community among the nations top regions for health care to take on a national set of issues.
This isnt an engineering program, its not a public health problem, its not a nursing problem, Benneyan said. This is all of our problem, and weve got to work together to create broad solutions.
The Healthcare Systems Engineering Program works to have a broad impact on the nations health-care system through research, education and application of engineering improvement sciences.