Berwick: Improve care, reduce errors to save healthcare dollars

Thanks to the federal deficit and state budget cuts, hospitals may be forced to eliminate services to free up needed funds. But CMS Chief Dr. Donald Berwick said hospitals should avoid cutting services, and instead focus on improving the quality of care in order to save money.

Quality issues like poor coordination, inefficient and unnecessary care, and lack of respect for patients' needs are driving up costs, Berwick told about 100 healthcare providers and advocates at an event Wednesday in Cincinnati, notes the Cincinnati Business Courier.

While slashing services and staff or withholding benefits may seem like a quick and easy way to rein in healthcare costs, Berwick promoted a "better" approach.

"I have for 30 years, my entire professional career, worked on the other way to do it, which is improve, improve," he said yesterday in an interview with PBS NewsHour.

He likened the strategy to the development of computers, which get newer and better each year, yet cost less. "Most of what you do in your life is better today and less expensive because we have figured out a better way to do it. The same applies in healthcare," he noted.

In addition to reducing readmissions and healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs), Berwick said a new payment system that rewards doctors for quality, and not quantity, is key to enhancing care.

"We have to move from paying for volume, how much you do, to paying for value, how well you do. We should be paying healthcare like we pay any other sector, for how well you do, how well the patient does in this case," he said in the interview.

Berwick hailed the coordinated, patient-centered care found in accountable care organizations as one way healthcare organizations can "overcome a fragmented payment system" to improve quality and ultimately lower medical costs.

For more:
- here's the PBS NewsHour interview
- read the Cincinnati Business Courier article