Aetna chairman: To reduce healthcare costs, cut wasteful spending

To reduce healthcare costs, the U.S. healthcare system must reduce spending, which is at a 10-year high, Aetna Chairman Mark T. Bertolini writes in an opinion piece for USA Today.

Bertolini points to a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund, which found of 11 Western, industrialized nations, the U.S. ranks last in quality but first in per capita spending. Although the situation looks dire, Bertolini writes, healthcare providers actively work to make improve the system.

"The hospitals and physicians that are seizing every opportunity for preventive care, wellness and population health management are part of the solution," he wrote. "When healthcare providers work together and with health plans to improve efficiency and avoid unnecessary services, they are addressing that waste and delivering high-quality healthcare. They become responsible for the care they deliver, not the resources they consume."

For example, Bertolini points to a recent program in which Aetna collaborated with healthcare providers to identify patients who were due for visits, had unfilled prescriptions or whose condition grew worse, as well as ensure patients saw their doctor within 30 days of discharge. Patients in this program had 50 percent fewer inpatient hospital days, 56 percent fewer readmissions and 45 percent fewer admissions than patients who were not in it, Bertolini writes, and with these improved outcomes came "substantially lower" costs.

By the same token, Bertolini said, hospitals should rethink care delivery, identify their successful focuses and treat more of those patients. 

There are several other ways for hospitals to push back against spending growth, Rick Judy, a principal in PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Industries Advisory practice, told FierceHealthcare including price transparency and risk-based contracts.

To learn more:
- read the opinion piece