Yesterday I listened to the Dec 18th Commonwealth Club lecture by Donald Berwick, M.D., Former President and CEO, Institute for Healthcare Improvement; Former Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. I have never heard Berwick talk before. So I came to the lecture with no priors, to see if his recommendations made sense. I was impressed. Berwick reflected all of the recent research that I have been reading on how to dramatically improve quality. Because quality improves outcomes, reduces hospital stays, reduces interventions, higher quality is really the only sane route to lower costs. It also happens to save a lot of lives and eliminate a lot of misery.
Here’s a fragment of Bob Sutton’s commentary on Berwick’s resignation address.
Before coming to Washington, the organization he led, a small non-profit called the Institute for Health Improvement, organized and guided an effort in American hospitals that — by doing simple, evidence things like hand washing, raising the bed when people are on a respirator, and other small but effective things — saved more than 100,000 lives by some estimates. This little non-profit recruited over 3000 hospitals that had over 70% of the beds in the U.S. to participate in this effort to reduce preventable deaths.
Obama, recognizing his greatness, appointed him as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Or he tried to. Our do nothing — or actually do nothing but screw the other side — Congress opposed his appointment, so Obama did one of those sneaky interim appointments that Berwick to keep the position for 17 months before being forced out. The New York Times Joe Nocera did a great piece on him, check it out.
The thing I would especially emphasize is that Berwick is not and has never been about ideology, he is about effectiveness and cost-cutting is central to everything he does and advocates.
You can access the audio of his lecture here, or via iTunes subscription to the Commonwealth Club Radio Show.