Maine Providers and Healthcare Leaders Discuss How to Transform a Broken Healthcare System

Dozens of Maine providers and healthcare leaders met to discuss how to transform an inadequate healthcare system driven only by volume to one that promotes quality, accountability, and collaboration between providers, payers and consumers at a summit organized by the Maine Health Management Coalition and the Maine Medical Association on Nov. 18, 2015.

Elizabeth Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement, was one of several speakers at the conference who focused on the importance of bringing everyone to the table to make meaningful changes throughout the healthcare system.

Kicking off the day-long Portland conference, entitled “Leading Change: How to Make the Switch from Volume to Value,” was Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, who poignantly recalled her struggles with the healthcare system during her husband’s stroke.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Maine. Her husband experienced lengthy stays in hospital and rehabilitation centers, while Mills struggled to navigate a complex healthcare system marked by faulty communications, incomplete electronic health records, and confusion about how much medical care would cost and how much health insurance would cover.

Despite the fact Mills is an attorney, and her sister, Dr. Dora Mills, is a physician and former director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Mills struggled to appeal seemingly arbitrary decisions by insurers who decided her husband no longer needed to be in a rehabilitation center. “I could barely handle it, I have no idea how people who aren’t lawyers or don’t have my experience are able to navigate this system,” she said.

Mills made the following recommendations to the providers and organizations as they prepared to attend panel discussions where healthcare reform would be the number one topic.

  1. Providers should use email to communicate with patient families. The current system, which depends on timing and unreliable doctor schedules, fails to delivery accurate, timely information that increase shared decision-making by providers, patients and their families.
  2. Make doctor notes, which are entered in a patient’s charts, available to patients and their designees to improve patient-provider communication and shared decision-making.
  3. Improve use and access to electronic health records. Make them available to EMTs, hospitals, specialists, and primary care providers. Currently, only providers within a designated network can access records. Patients often have specialists who work outside their primary care provider’s network who have valuable diagnostic information that providers and patients should know.

In Mills’ case, when her husband was rushed to a hospital after he collapsed from his stroke, the doctor in the emergency room relied on Mills, who was understandably frantic, to accurately report what medications her husband was taking and what his medical history was.

  1. Improve public health through better education and prevention efforts, such as the Healthy Maine initiative.
  2. Reform the health care system so families know what they are paying for upfront and can make informed choices, and reform health insurance to lessen the bureaucratic burden on patients and their families.