While speaking at the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce annual Economic Summit last week, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber briefly discussed the work being done in health care transformation.

As the new health care law unfolds, questions continue to arise about what it means for citizens, communities and businesses. Local residents clearly want health care to provide access, quality and value.

To achieve access, we must, I believe, address the real issues that will lead us to transformation.

Controlling health care spending could be perceived as threatening patient care; however, research shows that high cost does not equal high quality.

Tom RussellOur employees are asked to provide the same care to our patients that they would want delivered to their own family members. At Adventist Medical Center, we’ve empowered our staff to look for opportunities to improve the patient experience while reducing costs. Implementing life-saving innovations, while being faithful stewards of the communities’ financial resources, recently placed Adventist Medical Center in the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide for patient safety.

If other hospitals took similar measures, approximately 254,000 patient safety events and 56,367 deaths among Medicare patients could have been avoided.

Oregon is engaged in designing solutions that will positively impact health and ultimately transform health care. Gov. Kitzhaber estimates that if the plan works, and is replicated in other states, the 10-year savings could exceed $1.5 trillion.

The state already has led the way by cutting more than $12 billion in Medicaid costs over the past 15 years through efficient management and prioritization of services, but clearly more needs to be done to address the growing concerns about the health delivery system.

Under the state’s health care transformation, hospitals and health departments in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties have established a coordinated care organization, or CCO, known in the Portland metro area as Health Share of Oregon.

The partnership represents a substantial investment of resources from the organizations coming together to make a positive difference in healthcare delivery in the region.

The organization will focus on how health services are delivered to members of the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), improving health throughout each community and spending healthcare dollars more wisely. The CCO is designed to bring forward new models of care that are patient-centered and team-focused.

Health Share of Oregon’s mission is to be an integrated community delivery system that achieves better care, better health, and lower costs for the Medicaid population and the Tri-County community. In order for it to work, CCO’s must be accountable for health outcomes of the populations served. The system will be successful if it empowers patients, focuses on prevention, and improves the patient experience.

The quality and safety movement has brought the principles of process engineering and efficiency to health care, saving time and money and improving safety as the healthcare system treats illness in this country. Ensuring exceptional care means continually improving patient quality, safety and satisfaction and engaging consumers in improving their health, wellness and lifestyle.

While improving process is important, I firmly believe that transforming health care actually begins when we engage consumers in improving their health, wellness and lifestyle.

As a community, we must move from a focus on sickness to a model of wellness. We must address the underlying causes of illness in our communities if we are truly going to change the health of our communities and reduce the cost of health.

At Adventist Health, we’ve begun the journey by inviting employees and the community to increasingly take control of their own health.

Screenings, health prevention and educational programs are offered at the hospital, physician practices and outpatient centers, in the community, as well as worksites and schools.

Our Engaged Living Well program focuses on significantly improving the health and wellness of our own employees and of their families through fitness challenges, plus nutritious offerings and support for chronic conditions.

The results-driven program is extended to local employers that tap our expertise to improve the health of their own work force with onsite screenings and seminars, executive and employee physicals and more.

Healthcare transformation is a journey that begins on the local level.

It happens when we each take accountability for the choices we make to improve the quality of life for ourselves and those we love.

For the past 4 years, Tom Russell has served as president and CEO of Adventist Medical Center, which includes the 302-bed hospital and 35 primary, specialty and ancillary clinics, including the services of the Gresham Station Medical Center.

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