Health:” Medical, business leaders discuss transformation of health care

Will priorities and strategies aimed at cutting healthcare costs and improving overall healthcare in the United States change under President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to overturn and dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?

“Absolutely not,” Barclay Berdan, CEO of Texas Health Resources, said at a Dec. 14 symposium on “Transforming Health and Health Care,” at Texas Christian University.

“There’s no way Congress or the American people are going to abandon the 20 million people who have gotten health care” under the Affordable Care Act, Berdan said. “Health care is primarily local,” he said in a panel discussion.

Other speakers agreed with his statement.

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The ACA is a work in progress that needs some changes down the road, but the transition from a volume-based system to a system based on the value of patient outcomes and overall well-being is already underway and will continue, they said.

“Politics are local and health care is local,” said Dr. Stuart Flynn, dean of the new University of North Texas Health Science Center and TCU School of Medicine. “This is an opportunity for us to do amazing things.

“Patients want time with their health care providers, eye-to-eye contact. They want to be touched,” he said. “We need to buy that time back.”

Ever-expanding knowledge and breakthroughs in medical technology will help buy time for health care providers to deliver the kind of direct care patients want, Flynn said.

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“Our focus is on 2026 – the year our first graduates will see their first patients by themselves. … We are the pipeline for the next generation of health care providers. We need to reassure them,” he said.

To illustrate how his large hospital system, with 24 hospitals in the Fort Worth – Dallas area, is focused on value rather than volume, Berdan pointed to the Blue Zones project that Texas Health Resources helped the Fort Worth community launch in 2015 to make the city a model of health and well-being.

Blue Zones is the effort that encourages residents to make small changes that result in big impact: chose more fruits and vegetables, reduce weight, smoke less, exercise more, feel more connected and have a greater sense of purpose.

“It is about helping people make better choices, creating an environment that is healthier,” Berdan said. Blue Zones is about changing the way people deal with obesity and chronic diseases and aging and mental health issues and the use of emergency rooms.

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“We have to feed it, nurture it, grow it and head it in the right direction,” Berdan said of the Blue Zones initiative.

A productive workforce depends on a healthy home environment and overall well-being, said Bill Thornton, president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

“All of that impacts our ability to ‘sell’ this community,” Thornton said.

Kristin Jenkins, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council Foundation and senior vice president of the DFW Hospital Council, was moderator for the panel discussion.

About 200 health care providers, hospital administrators and health educators attended the symposium, sponsored by the TCU Health Care MBA Program, TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine, TCU Neeley Executive Education and the Texas Lone Star Chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association.