Where Hope Lives / by Joe Furia

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Hope springs eternal in the New Year. It’s a fresh start – an opportunity to hit the reset button and resolve to make this trip around the sun better than the last. 

The year 2018 brings an extra dose of optimism for those of us in the healthcare community. After a year largely marked by repeated, politically-charged and ultimately failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act – efforts we actively opposed – the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association is ready to dive head-first into the challenges and opportunities ahead.

And yes, the ACA is one of them. It bears repeating that our opposition to repeal-and-replace efforts over the last year was based on policy – not politics. We’ve asserted time and again that our healthcare system, nationally and in Arizona, is in need of major reform and improvement. If we can take this fresh start as an opportunity to build on our strengths, improve on our weaknesses and work together in a thoughtful, reasoned and bipartisan manner, 2018 could be a banner year for healthcare reform.

To make sure we’re starting off on the right foot, it’s important to recognize that often the most meaningful and productive reforms to our healthcare system come from the leaders and organizations within it.   

For example, there are three movements that for years – even decades – have been at the heart of great progress in healthcare:

  • Over the last four decades, the Healthy Communities movement has been seeking to reformulate our larger healthcare aims in the context of proactive health improvement – not just the treatment of disease and injury. While the national trend continues to see a greater emphasis on sick care more than true healthcare, the possibility to do better in both remains possible because of the passion and actions of those in this broader community.
     
  • The Care Improvement movement was catalyzed by a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine that uncovered profound problems in healthcare quality and patient safety. Specifically, the finding that as many as 98,000 patients were dying in hospitals every year as a result of preventable medical errors served as a wakeup call for our field. In response, a multitude of initiatives have fostered a new age of healthcare quality improvement. Like most movements, it is owned by many, but also galvanized by organizations like the Institute of Health Care Quality. While our work in this area is far from finished, quality and safety in healthcare has made – and continues to make – significant gains across the Nation and in Arizona.
     
  • End-of-Life Care is a third movement of note – newer to the scene but equally important. Its mission: to make sure individuals are empowered to make end-of-life healthcare decisions that are consistent with their needs and desires. This movement aims to educate the public on the importance of advance care planning; encourage families to talk about their end-of-life healthcare wishes; and make sure patient and family preferences are followed by caregivers. Ultimately, it’s about how we want to live, not how we want to die.

I am proud that AzHHA is deeply and firmly engaged in each of these movements.

For Healthy Communities, our Healthiest State vision embraces our intent to further build better healthcare and health for the people of Arizona.

For Care Improvement, our hospital quality collaborative has delivered quantifiable gains over the last five years: In the most recent improvement initiative, which began Oct. 2016, we reduced patient deaths by 50, harms by 974, and saved over $9 million in the process.

For End-of-Life Care, we have launched a major statewide collaborative called “Thoughtful Life Conversations.” Through this, we are working with statewide and community partners to educate health professionals; build community-based efforts to promote patient choice and control over end-of-life care; and build policies that better support these choices.

These initiatives embody the kind of continual improvement and innovation at the heart of quality healthcare. We’ll be pushing forward on these and other efforts this year, while remaining vigilant regarding any threats to our industry and the Arizona patients and families who depend upon it.

Let’s make it a great 2018!