I’ve said at employee and board forums and elsewhere that while we certainly have a health care crisis now, I am worried that the worst is yet to come.
I’ve expressed two specific concerns: the expansion of Medicaid and consequent access problems, and the disease burden coming our way as children get older, given our epidemic of childhood obesity and the resulting increases expected in hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
A study reported earlier this month gives me reason to think the worst is going to be upon us much more quickly than I’ve thought.
Information released last weekend at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association shows a 23% jump in Type 1 diabetes in children over an eight-year period ending in 2009.
The data was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. The study also found a 21% increase in Type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents under 20 over the same period.
We must prepare. I have asked John Kee, our St. Luke’s Health System vice president of physician services, to see if we can deploy the St. Luke’s Humphreys Diabetes Center programs across the System.
We also have to find additional ways to tackle the “better health” part of our Triple Aim. We will not be able to control health care costs if we only focus on treating the disease and its complications.
This is why the capabilities and competencies we are developing in improving health through our Healthy U employee wellness program are so important. There is obviously much more to be done, but we’ve made a tremendous start.
We’re making impressive strides through programs such as YEAH, which helps youths make good decisions around activity and eating. Dr. Greg Janos, executive medical director of St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital, and Bev Holland, Children’s Hospital administrator, and their teams are doing spectacular work with that effort. And Dr. Mindy Gaddis is lending her considerable expertise to the challenges through CHOICE, an initiative that’s building momentum for healthier families in Idaho. Dr Janos is also a part of that group.
I am also excited that, through the Medicare Shared Savings Program and our clinical integration initiatives, the management of diabetes in the ambulatory setting across the System will be an area of focus, evidence-based medicine, and measurement. Implementation and use of the myStLuke’s electronic health record system is critical to our success here.
Almost everyone in our organization has a role to play in some way that will impact our ultimate achievement of better health, better care, and lower cost. What more powerful legacy can we have? The health of the communities we serve is at stake.
David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.