Mountain View Voice

News - July 6, 2012

Hospital prepared for Affordable Care Act

El Camino's medical chief looks forward in wake of Supreme Court's ruling

by Nick Veronin

Not much will change at El Camino Hospital in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

That's because the hospital began implementing many of the changes called for by legislation long before the court ruled on the president's health care bill, according to Dr. Eric Pifer, chief medical officer for El Camino.

For some time now, he said, the hospital has been implementing measures aimed at streamlining care. And no matter what happens after the November election, that is the direction that El Camino will continue to move, Pifer said.

"As health care providers, we — as much as anybody — recognize the problems in the way that we do health care in the United States," he said. "I think we've always felt that it needs to be a lot simpler."

As it stands now, Pifer said, the country's health care system is "very fragmented." Patients are constantly moving from one provider to another, there is no uniform system for sharing patient information, and there are a multitude of payment systems, he explained. All of these factors add up to a system that is chaotic, confusing and more expensive than it needs to be.

The Affordable Care Act will help to strip away much of that confusion, Pifer said, although he acknowledged it is no panacea.

"The law is not perfect, but it pushes the country in the direction that it needs to go," he said.

For starters, the law works against what he called "perverse incentives." Currently, doctors are rewarded financially the longer a patient is in a clinic or hospital; they are paid for each test conducted and each procedure performed.

The Affordable Care Act pushes physicians to keep their patients out of their offices by offering monetary incentives for efficient care and earning high marks on patient satisfaction surveys — essentially for keeping people well, not curing them once they are sick.

The hospital's recently completed strategic plan emphasizes this preventative model of care, Pifer said.

A key component in keeping people well will come in the form of better record keeping. That means maintaining records in an electronic system for easy reference as well as keeping track of at-risk patients after they've been discharged.

The presumed Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has said he will make the repeal of "Obamacare" his No. 1 priority should he defeat the incumbent in this fall's presidential election. But until then, the hospital is moving forward as if the Affordable Care Act will continue to roll out.

The next big challenge will come as the vast majority of formerly uninsured people are able to obtain health insurance.

"We were all preparing for the individual mandate to be overturned," Pifer said, referring to the most controversial portion of the president's bill — the one that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance. But the provision was upheld, and as it is rolled out, Pifer is expecting the hospital to see a large influx of patients.

All of this is manageable, Pifer said, and the hospital is working hard on solutions. "Our health care system is completely capable of providing the best health care in the world," he said. "We've got to coordinate care better. We've got to manage people across the continuum in better ways."

Comments

There are no comments yet for this post

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields