How is the Rhode Island Foundation Coalition-Building for Health Care Reform?

The first female Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, is going to have her work cut out for her with requests for all sorts of things—funding for everything under the sun, reform ideas from every political perspective, and, oh yes, health care—that elephant in the room costing us all a fortune, wreaking havoc on middle class and poor families, a bloated and ineffective system that makes the U.S. look bad internationally.

Enter Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and the Rhode Island Foundation, stage left. They bring with them many years of sustained investment in improving health care. Whitehouse founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute during his time as attorney general, and he's a leading voice in Washington for health care delivery system reform. The Rhode Island Foundation has been funding health care initiatives since early in its history, and continues to seek and fund innovative ways to improve health care access and delivery.

So what is being done with all this accumulated health care knowledge? Senator Whitehouse and Rhode Island Foundation President Neil Steinberg have brought together a coalition of local stakeholders in health care, from hospitals to insurers to academics, to begin developing health care reform goals.

The Rhode Island Foundation has been funding health care policy research for many years, with a history of grant making to Rhode Island Quality Institute in 2009 for "Application of Social Networking Theory to Electronic Medical Records Adoption in Rhode Island." The Rhode Island Quality Institute also receives foundation grants from The CVS Health Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, and the Walmart Foundation, to spearhead research on health care reform.

The coalition of stakeholders led by Whitehouse and the Rhode Island Foundation has a lot to say to the new governor and the state's newly elected general assembly. The coalition is asking for three major reforms: 

1. Expand and develop "alternative reimbursement models that reward value and patient-centric care delivery." Basically, instead of paying health car practitioners per visit or per procedure, the new model will incentivize improved clinical outcomes for patients.

2. Develop systems of care that encourage collaboration using the statewide health insurance information exchange and other electronic health record systems. When systems of care share information on patients, they can reduce repeat visits for expensive tests, and determine what has already been learned from recent testing, office visits, or procedures.

3. Reduce administrative overhead. If you haven't noticed, administrative costs are completely out of control in the United States. A lot of time and money gets chewed up in hospitals on multi-million dollar salaries and other unnecessary expenses.   

The coalition is calling for some immediate actions as well, including the formation of a stakeholder group to "transform Rhode Island's health care payment system" and the development of health care spending estimates for the state for the next five years, with annual progress reports.

Another call to action: the encouragement of consumer engagement "to increase the selection of high-value care based on cost and quality data." One thing this might mean is that before your doctor orders 8,000 tests, he or she should discuss with you some options. Many of us have had the experience of being loaded up with health care tests before we even know what's happening.

It's a tall order, one that won't be addressed overnight, but it's good to see government leaders, hospitals, and foundations collaborating to seek a path forward for health care reform.