October 14, 2005

Group formed to tackle health system’s issues

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Harry Jacobson, M.D.

Group formed to tackle health system’s issues

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and the Nashville Health Care Council are partnering to create a new organization focused on developing and demonstrating potential solutions to problems facing the nation's health care system.

Quality, safety, cost and access to health care are among the many issues to be discussed by the Health Care Solutions Group (HCSG) in the coming months and years.

VUMC Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Harry Jacobson, M.D., is one of a group of senior executives who share the belief that existing policy groups and think tanks have failed in solving many problems associated with health care, thus the need for the HCSG.

“HCSG's mission is to analyze problems, come up with practical solutions and then go to the next step and actually implement the answers,” said Jacobson, also chairman of the Nashville Health Care Council.

An initial summit meeting in January 2006 will finalize priorities and strategies before launching the first group of HCSG projects.

HCSG is co-funded and co-founded by VUMC and the Nashville Health Care Council, which is comprised of more than 200 companies. The new organization will be housed in Vanderbilt's 3401 West End Avenue building.

Although the group's roots and offices are in Nashville, its agenda and membership are unmistakably national, with over half of board members and approximately two-thirds of fellows from outside Nashville.

“We are really going to focus around issues of quality of care, the cost and resources in delivering care, and how to create more access for the 45 million uninsured Americans in this country and the 40 million or so who are significantly underinsured,” said HCSG Executive Director David Osborn, Ph.D., who recently transitioned from his role as executive director of the Vanderbilt Center For Better Health.

“That is almost one-third of the U.S. population who does not have regular, convenient access to health care,” he added.

HCSG will use experts from fields including economics, information technology, health care policy, law, government, insurance, venture capital, pharmaceuticals and communications to lead and support improvement of the U.S. health care system.

One major goal of the organization is to serve as a clearinghouse for up-to-date and accurate data and health care information.

“We have heard from many people across the country and from a lot of the government folks in Washington that there is no one single source for up-to-date, valid information,” Osborn said.

“People who want to go to look for basic information about how the health care system functions today have to go to multiple sources. In some cases they get conflicting answers, in some cases the data is five years old, in some cases the data doesn't seem to be very well collected or organized.”

HCSG will also focus on identifying specific policy changes that lead to improved health outcomes and better use of health care resources, as well as working with appropriate groups to develop and propose legislation.

“We want to be thought of as a sounding board on the government side for policymakers and legislators who are evaluating potential legislation or policy related to health care,” Osborn said.

“Politically, we are benign. We are not Republican, we are not Democrat. Our goal is to be, as much as possible, an objective party that knows a lot about health care … but we are not going to engage in lobbying activities.”