Carol Friesen

Each of us knows someone who has a serious illness. Their health is the primary concern. How they’re going to pay for their care is a close second.

Innovative collaboration has been a cornerstone of health care for generations, as evidenced by leadership giants like Mother Teresa, whose mantra was: “I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot. Together, we can do great things.” Yet we’ve also been guilty of siloed thinking or not playing forward the long-term, unintended consequence of our actions or inaction. One example is the opioid crisis. The positives of managing pain and focusing on the patient experience clouded our view of the long-term, unintended consequence—an addiction epidemic. Maybe we should have seen the trend and acted sooner. Yet we continue to maintain silos between physical, mental, and social health. We need to ask ourselves: At what cost?

Another example is the typical care for Type 1 diabetes. For one family, the $15,000 bluetooth-enabled pump and $600 per month diabetic supplies for their 10-year-old son left his mother with no other choice but to stay with her employer indefinitely to maintain insurance coverage. The very technology that enables her son’s freedom eliminates her’s. Did we consider the downside of advancements in technology and drugs within our capitalist economy playing out in the lives of middle class families? In some cases, we’re asking them to choose between needed medications and supplies and their families’ basic needs. Again, maybe we should have seen this coming.

These stories illustrate the reality of our nation’s healthcare system, with its blessings and burdens fueling spirited debate and action to drive value. The discussion has evolved from thoroughness of care to appropriateness of care, to now include affordability of care. The costs associated with serious illnesses and end-of-life care are creating overwhelming financial hardships for many.

One innovative collaboration that seeks to address such issues is the ABIM Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign. It aims to help physicians and patients engage in conversations about appropriate care utilization and supports physicians’ efforts to help patients make smart, effective care choices. It hasn’t changed physician practice or patient consumerism overnight, but it’s definitely a start. The elegant design of Choosing Wisely is in the collaboration—bringing together diverse strengths, leveraging a shared vision, and creating scalability through consistency to reach many. It demonstrates again, collaboration is always a perfect fit when resources are restricted, and stakes are high.

So how can healthcare finance professionals collaborate with others to tackle the difficult issues surrounding the financial hardships created by serious illness and the underlying total cost of care for those we serve? Be passionate. Be purposeful. Be innovative, and collaborate with physicians, care teams, and/or community partners. Let’s start there!

Publication Date: Friday, December 01, 2017