… Ber­wick, the blinder re­mover …

Modern Healthcare - - Opinions Letters -

Iread and lis­tened with dis­may over var­i­ous out­cries about the re­cess ap­point­ment of Dr. Don­ald Ber­wick as ad­min­is­tra­tor, or head of the CMS. He’s a smart, thought­ful man with a good deal of com­mon sense. Just what we need as we at­tempt to tame the rag­ing tiger that is health-

care. We’re lucky that he’s will­ing to serve.

As much as the next Amer­i­can, I’m all for learn­ing about po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees’ opin­ions and plans. I am not, how­ever, a fan of po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing and com­mis­sions that are only mas­querad­ing as be­ing use­ful. The lat­est hue and cry about the re­cess ap­point­ment of Ber­wick puz­zles me: “We need to know where he stands! We need to know what he’s go­ing to do!”

Re­ally? The Amer­i­can pub­lic, and es­pe­cially Congress (sup­pos­edly well-read in health­care is­sues) doesn’t know where Ber­wick stands or what he pro­poses to do? This man has writ­ten vol­umes and given count­less speeches out­lin­ing what he thinks the U.S. should do. He has built a foun­da­tion that trans­forms those thoughts into ac­tion, help­ing hos­pi­tals de­liver higher-qual­ity and lower-cost care.

He’s thought­ful, smart and—most wor­ri­some to the sta­tus quo—hon­est. He is will­ing to put the un­pop­u­lar po­si­tions for­ward for dis­cus­sion. He’s right; the waste in health­care is as­tound­ing, full of non­va­lue-added ac­tiv­i­ties that sap the strength from our coun­try.

And, yes, he does want to re­form health­care be­cause it’s bro­ken and needs to be re­formed. Our qual­ity com­pared with other de­vel­oped na­tions is slip­ping. Our sys­tem is frag­mented, much too ex­pen­sive, bur­dened with ex­tra­ne­ous care of du­bi­ous use­ful­ness, and of­ten in­ac­ces­si­ble. We can do bet­ter. Why wouldn’t we bor­row lessons from other coun­tries where care is bet­ter and costs are lower?

I think Ber­wick can help re­move the blin­ders of ar­ro­gance. Health­care re­form is too com­plex and too crit­i­cal, and the prob­lems Dr. Ber­wick (and all of us) are fac­ing are too im­por­tant to be rel­e­gated to a: “He wants death pan­els!” Twit­ter post. We all de­serve bet­ter.

Shelley Burns Di­rec­tor of knowl­edge man­age­ment Health­care Man­age­ment Coun­cil

Need­ham, Mass.

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