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Policymakers should get on board as Minnesota health-care providers enact health reform’s goals and innovate

“Minnesota is perhaps the first state in the Union that may fairly be considered to have solved the most perplexing problems connected with medical education and practice …”

While doing research to gain some historical perspective on our current health-care situation, I came upon this quote by Abraham Flexner in his 1910 report that is cited by many as revolutionizing American medicine. Then, I recently read that Minnesota is the home to many of the best health-care providers in the country, according to a recent Health Grades assessment. All this as we hear about several lawmakers — in Minnesota and around the country — who are intent on dismantling last year’s health reforms.

As these politicians debate, Minnesota health-care providers are going about their business of providing the best-valued health care in the country. It’s time these policymakers end their debate and take a hard long look at what is happening in this state, from the inner Twin Cities to the greater reaches of rural Minnesota. If only the rest of the country could emulate our results — many of the problems we face would be resolved.

At a recent health-care symposium in Plymouth sponsored by Experienced Resources, four health-care leaders gave their take on reform and what they are doing to change our system of care. Their leadership and innovation are prime examples of why Minnesota continues to lead the country and why policymakers would be wise to listen and take note.

Quality outcomes while lowering costs
Jan Malcolm, CEO of Courage Center and former state commissioner of health, reminded the audience that Minnesota led the way by enacting many reforms long before the rest of the country. A greater emphasis on quality outcomes while lowering costs is no small feat. Yet here we are, with providers implementing electronic records, coordinating care across all settings, and publicly reporting their safety concerns.

Dr. John Halfen, a primary-care physician and medical director of Lakewood Health System in Staples, spoke of the Medical Home model he and his colleagues have implemented. With true Minnesotan ingenuity, they have a system where care is carefully coordinated and patients are closely monitored. Total costs are down substantially since hospital admissions, emergency-room visits and unnecessary tests are preempted by this preventive-care model. To top it off, patient and provider satisfaction is at an all-time high.

Candace Simerson, president and COO of Minnesota Eye Consultants, echoed her colleagues’ thoughts when she spoke of the need for healthier lifestyles, for holding people more accountable for their health and for coordinating care among all providers.

Not done yet — but making changes
Scott Wordelman, president and CEO of Fairview Redwing Medical Center, gave several examples of why the changes are necessary, and how Minnesota health care is one of the highest values in the country.

Each story from these four leaders emphasizes how we have taken very pragmatic, real steps to enact the goals established by health-care reform. We are reducing costs, improving quality and providing greater access. While we aren’t done yet, policymakers should get on board, highlight Minnesota’s accomplishments as a model for the rest of the country, and provide incentives to keep this state in its long-earned leadership position.

Mary Ellen Wells is the vice president of client development of Experienced Resources, LLC, a Bloomington-based firm that matches health-care leaders with over 20 years of experience to special projects and interim assignments in operations, nursing, human resources, marketing, finance, information technology and ancillary services.

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