June 20, 2014
So much has been written, discussed, and disputed around the political and ideological battles over healthcare reform. For nearly half of a decade, much of the conversation has been focused on abstract notions like competition versus regulation to control spending, or the appropriate role of government within the system. Seeing these broad concepts brought up again and again in ads, news coverage, and public opinion polls, it is easy to believe that they represent the heart of debate about the future of health care in the United States. While they are important, they represent only a piece of the total picture.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that only 23 percent of respondents said that their views on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are informed by their own experiences. The majority of their opinions are informed by the media and those around them. This needs to change. Personal experience with the healthcare system should matter as we continue to implement the ACA. In fact, it should matter a lot.
Over the past three years, Foundation-sponsored research on improving the healthcare experience for low-income Californians has consistently demonstrated the importance of a close personal, relationship between patients and their providers. Given that health care affects every one of us personally and profoundly, often when we are feeling most vulnerable, it’s not surprising that this basic element is so important. Better healthcare isn’t always about resolving the tension between competition and regulation or the appropriate role of government; at its core, it’s about the patient.
Building upon this fact, the Foundation’s investments in patient engagement are keeping patients connected to their providers and breaking down the barriers to care for individuals and families across the safety net. In Los Angeles, for example, we’re supporting the expansion of an innovative eConsult system that allows patients to access specialty care doctors without months-long wait times or multiple visits to different locations. In addition to improving efficiency, the system is also reinforcing the patient-provider relationship by creating a virtual one-on-one consultation to directly discuss personal needs. Within an increasingly integrated system, this type of innovation – that addresses the details that matter most to individuals – should be at the center of the debate around healthcare transformation in the U.S.
In our mission to advance the healthcare safety net and bring an end to domestic violence, progress can seem slow and hard-won. However, if we’re going to make a meaningful, lasting impact through our grantmaking, the finer points must be done first, and done right. It is in the details of the ACA that positive change will be brought to life for communities throughout California. We are honored to work with our grantees to make that change possible.
Peter V. Long, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Blue Shield of California Foundation