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HFMA member Dale Baker and Dean Westcott, a member of HFMA U.K., met on a trip to Russia-and share a passion for better understanding the healthcare finance systems of each other's country.

A friendship developed during a trip to Russia has given HFMA member Dale Baker, FHFMA, CPA, a unique perspective on the challenges of healthcare finance-not just in the United States, but also globally. 

Baker, president of Baker Healthcare Consulting, Indianapolis, and a member of HFMA's Indiana Pressler Memorial Chapter, met Dean Westcott during the "HFMA Abroad" trip to Russia in September 2008.  Westcott, chief operating and financial officer of the West Essex Primary Care Trust of the National Health Service, which is responsible for the health care of about 250,000 Brits, also is vice president of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

The two formed a quick friendship. "I was struck by Dale's wealth of knowledge on healthcare issues and his sheer enthusiasm for the subject and his eagerness to learn," Westcott says.

Says Baker, "I've enjoyed our discussions on how finance professionals can take a lead role in something as globally important as the cost of health care. And I think what the ACCA is doing is pretty amazing. Under Dean's leadership, it is conducting a year-long research project on how to reduce the costs of health care internationally."

Since the two met, Baker has traveled to London to learn more about the British healthcare system with Westcott's guidance. Baker and Westcott also gave a half-day presentation on health care in the United Kingdom at a U.S. healthcare seminar.

"During the presentation, Dean described the U.K. healthcare system and the huge reforms that have taken place since 2000-what has worked well, what has not, and some of the unintended consequences of reform-along with reforms that will take place in the future," Baker says. "I then discussed what elements of reform in the United Kingdom may have merit in the United States, given the structural and cultural differences between the countries."

During Baker's September 2009 visit to the United Kingdom, Westcott arranged for Baker to interview many British healthcare leaders regarding the U.K. healthcare system and the status of the ACCA research project. Baker also toured six hospitals in London.  

The opportunity to view the British healthcare system firsthand was "incredible," Baker says. "I had the opportunity to interview many of its leaders and learn more about the National Health Service and the National Institute of Health & Clinical Effectiveness, which conducts comparative effectiveness research (like that recently funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) and puts a monetary value on quality of life when evaluating the clinical effectiveness of treatments and drugs."

Baker appreciates the ability to exchange ideas with Westcott about the role of healthcare finance professionals in transforming health care. "There is so much we can learn from other healthcare systems throughout the world," Baker says. "I'm grateful for the perspectives that my friendship with Dean provides, particularly as the United States moves toward healthcare reform."

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