Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Best Outcomes for All

I just finished the first edits on my book (look for it in early 2010) and am so glad that I will be able to write my blog again. The best part about writing a new book is that it is an opportunity to look across sectors and see what is on the horizon that will shape our health and well being. In many ways the new developments left me hopeful. At the same time it became clear that it was time to rethink some of the terms used by the health cognoscenti.

Let’s begin with discarding the conceptual framework of ED (not the one of blue pill fame) but as in “Elimination of Disparities” a term which over the past decade has had increased popularity. Too often ED became the new code for addressing the health care needs and concerns of Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and other communities.

The research that ensued documented the differences in care and treatment. With ED too many made the assumption that the best treatment would be the same for all. I knew that was a mistake because too often the goal of equal treatment did not sufficiently focus on outcomes.

There are differences among individuals and the best health care for a non-Hispanic woman in Minnesota may not be what is best for a Latina in Santa Fe. If fact, there is a growing body of evidence that the Latina is less likely to practice unhealthy behaviors like smoking and is likely to live longer that the woman in Minnesota.

As we enter one of the most robust debates we have had on health care, the need should not be to standardize treatment but to design systems that achieve the best outcome for all (BOA). The goal should be “Best Outcomes for All”; not on the average but at the individual level. That is something we can all get behind.