J Pediatr Surg. 2012 Jan;47(1):1-9.
Health care quality, access, cost, workforce, and surgical education: the ultimate perfect storm.
The discussions on health care reform over the past two years have focused on cost containment while trying to maintain quality of care. Focusing on just cost and quality unfortunately does not address other very important factors that impact on our health care delivery system. Availability of a well-trained workforce, maintaining the sophisticated medical/surgical education system, and ultimately access to quality care by the public are critical to maintaining and enhancing our health care delivery system. Unfortunately, all five of these components are under at risk. Thus, we have evolving the ultimate perfect storm affecting our health care delivery system. Although not ideal and given the uniqueness of our population and their expectations, our current delivery system is excellent compared to other countries. However, the cost of our current system is rising at an alarming rate. Currently, health care consumes 17% of our gross domestic product. If our system is not revised this will continue to rise and by 2025 it will consume 48%. The dilemma, given the current state of our overall economy and rising debt, is how to address this major problem. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act, which is now law, does not address most of the issues and the cost was initially grossly under estimated. Furthermore, the law does not address the issues of workforce, maintaining our medical education system or ultimately, access. A major revision of our system will be necessary to truly create a system that protects and enhances all five of the components of our health care delivery system. To effectively accomplish this will require addressing those issues that lead to wasteful spending and diversion of our health care dollars to profit instead of care. Improved and efficient delivery systems that reduce complications, reduction of duplication of tertiary and quaternary programs or services within the same markets (i.e. regionalization of care), health insurance reform, and tort reform collectively could save hundreds of billion dollars per year! These changes may not be easy to accomplish politically but will be essential to save what is likely the best health care system in the world.