Sunday, June 12, 2011

Scope of a Miracle

It is good to see photographs of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that became available to the public today. Few people know all the details of the kinds of care she received that made possible the near miracle of her survival and recovery. There are surely many physicians, surgeons, nurses and others who together made this possible. She is alive and recovering today because of the coordination of the efforts of many professionals. In other words, it was not only the skills of individuals who saved her life and promoted her recovery. It was the timely coordination of those efforts. In this case, the "system" of care worked. I want to believe it would have worked as well for any person who suffered her injury.

As I read some of the comments received by HHS regarding proposed rules for implementation of ACOs I see the strong expressions of good people who simply do not want government agencies to attempt to rationalize the healthcare delivery system. Some people are simply opposed to "socialized medicine" and/or define the proposed changes as a loss of freedoms won on battlefields around the world. Others are open to change but do not believe that the new law and the proposed rules will work. Rep. Giffords' recent experiences with the system could be cited either as evidence that what we already have can work; or to say that we can do better. I want to believe that we can do better for at least all American citizens, including the large numbers of people entering the Medicare program. I believe that the rationalization of medical processes can reduce costs and produce more consistent quality outcomes for all patients.

It is a safe guess to say that the implementation of the new law will produce unintended behaviors among providers. The system that produced the law is a political system. Democratic political systems cannot produce scientifically rational policy designs, as in the context of operations research which is rational in a more objective way. Politics is the art of what is politically possible. As we pray and hope for Rep. Giffords' continued recovery let us continue to hope that the new law which she supported in Congress with her vote backed by her courage can be implemented successfully. "Bureaucrats" have to run with what they are handed by others.

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