WASHINGTON — Should we just shoot the jukebox?
That question came up Sunday during the investiture of Jim Hinton as 2014 chair of the American Hospital Association board of directors.
“All wisdom known to man can be found in country-western song lyrics,” joked Hinton, who’s a big fan of that particular musical genre, as well as president and CEO of Presbyterian Healthcare Services in New Mexico. He cited one ditty in which a good old boy named Bubba is enjoying a beverage at his favorite watering hole when a particular song starts to play and triggers an emotional pang. In response, Bubba retrieves a rifle from his truck and blasts the jukebox.
These days, hospital leaders are experiencing a lot of pain of their own, Hinton noted. The health care field is in the midst of unprecedented and dramatic change as it moves from an “out-of-control fee-for-service system” to one based on outcomes and value.
A lot is being asked of hospital and health system leaders. They must make their organizations transparent on costs and quality, embrace population health and build a continuum of care with other providers in their communities. They also need to encourage community members to get involved in discussions about their own lifestyles and cut down on unhealthy behaviors. And they have to make the health care experience less overwhelming for patients, who sometimes deal with a dizzying array of providers, medications and bills.
“Right now, patients fear the complexities of health care as much as they fear their illness,” Hinton said.
The goal for all of this is to fulfill the Triple Aim — improving the patient experience and community health while reining in costs. And it’s taking place even as hospitals are forced to operate simultaneously in the fee-for-service and value-based payment worlds. No wonder our heads are throbbing.
Nevertheless, Hinton declares himself “very optimistic about the future … No other generation has had the opportunity to affect this kind of change.” One reason he’s hopeful is that the 5,000 U.S. hospitals are serving as “laboratories of innovation,” and “pockets of excellence” are beginning to emerge.
That’s where the AHA comes in.
“Great associations don’t protect their members from change,” Hinton said. “They lead their members to innovate and change.” By encouraging innovation and disseminating the results, the AHA will “create paths to improvement.”
The question for the field, he concluded, is “will we lead or will we have acted like Bubba? Will we take a shot at the jukebox or will we seize the opportunity of a generation?”