Jan 20, 2011

The University of Miami’s School of Business Administration kicked off the new year with a sold-out Global Forum focused on “The Business of Health Care: Defining the Future.” The “A-list” roster of speakers and panelists from across the country drew an A-list crowd of South Florida business and health care professionals. It was a fascinating and inspiring two days of dialogue.

Keynote remarks from U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and a Q&A discussion between U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and University of Miami President Donna Shalala (formerly U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration) set the tone for two days of insightful seminars and presentations on a wide range of health care topics.

Health reform and healthcare cost containment figured prominently throughout the Forum. What struck me most was the wide ranging consensus from leaders in all sectors of healthcare that the driving force behind change will come from engaged, informed consumers and business leaders, far more than it will from government imposed regulations. And better information technology and management will pave the way.

Electronic medical records, standardized cost and quality reporting systems, new information analysis and sharing systems that break down longstanding barriers between competitors and different sectors of our healthcare system – nothing was off the table for discussion. As one panelist pointed out, chaos and crisis are a magnet for entrepreneurs and a recipe for innovation, and the healthcare sector has an abundance of both.

Creative ideas and solutions abounded. A session on healthcare entrepreneurs highlighted case study after case study of successful companies – even in this struggling economy — started by individuals with unique solutions to some of the many problems facing our strained health care system. A session on employer benefits plans looked at bold new ways to educate and involve employees as change agents in improving the health care services cost/quality equation. A panel on cost containment had the head of the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and leaders from health insurance and healthcare financial management trades groups coming together in a remarkable spirit of cooperation to avert the further spiral of healthcare costs and access issues.

Yes, government’s role is important to set the parameters for reform and improvement. But it’s not just their problem to fix the system. It’s up to each of us to drive change, as smarter consumers of health care, more engaged managers of health plan benefits, as innovative leaders and entrepreneurs in the many sectors of our healthcare industry and through active participation in the democratic process as voters and engaged U.S. citizens.


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