KCPW's Midday Metro

Jessica Federer
(301) 443-1521
(240) 676-3655
E-MAIL: jfederer@ahrq.gov


KCPW (FM 88.3, AM 1010, and FM 105.3)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Midday Metro, July 21, 2005
For more information regarding this station, see www.kcpw.org/

Radio interview with members of the Citizens' Health Care Working Group prior to its second regional hearing on health care Friday July 22, 2005 at the Utah State Capitol.

Host/Interviewer: Blair Feulner

Interviewees: Working Group Chairman Randy Johnson and Working Group member Dotty Bazos, RN.

[Interview begins after musical introduction]

Host: Tomorrow at the State Capitol, the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group is holding its second regional hearing on health care to learn about advances in health care technology, health care equality issues such as employee and employer issues, and initiatives to deal with those. Out of the hearing, the non-partisan Working Group is expected to make recommendations to the President and Congress to provide U.S. citizens with “Health Care that Works for All Americans”.

On the phone with me is the chair of that committee, Randall Johnson, who has more than thirty years of experience in corporate benefits. For the past twenty-two years, he’s worked at Motorola, where he led the design of health care benefits programs for Motorola employees, retirees, and their families.

Good Morning, Randy.

Mr. Johnson: Good Morning!

Host: That’s a lot of employees.

Mr. Johnson: Well, it is, and it’s been a good working opportunity for me.

Host: Now what is this Working Group going to accomplish? Why do we have the group in the first place?

Mr. Johnson: Well, the Medicare Modernization Act, which was sponsored in part, or the section was sponsored in part by Senator Hatch and Senator Wyden, has provided for a Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, a working group of fourteen people selected from diverse backgrounds across the country to listen to the American public and then to develop recommendations to the President and Congress on a health care program that might work for citizens nationwide.

Host: The hearing tomorrow’s going to be where and when?

Mr. Johnson: The hearing is at the State Capitol tomorrow morning. It starts at 8:30 and will continue until mid-afternoon.

Host: Am I understanding that this group has already had a tour of, I think it’s LDS Hospital, and got a look at perhaps the future of technology. Were you on that tour, Randy?

Mr. Johnson: I was, and it was a really insightful opportunity for us. We joined the tour to see what LDS Hospital was doing. It seems to us that they are leading most health care institutions nationwide and are a credit to the city of Salt Lake.

Host: What sort of things did you see? I understand they’re kind of a leading institution in this thing called “informatics”. What is that?

Mr. Johnson: Well, the intent of the technology is to set up computer-based systems to enhance the quality of care and increase the efficiency of the delivery of care, and to reduce accidents that might otherwise be incurred in the hospital setting. And, smart people have worked to develop this system that’s used at LDS Hospital and patients are, in fact patients’ information is included along with the latest medical technology to bring about enhanced quality of care.

Host: Now, I may have gotten this wrong, but I think I read someplace that misdiagnosis or misinformation or mis-prescriptions or just mistakes was like the sixth leading cause of death in this country. Did I get that right?

Mr. Johnson: I’m not sure, exactly, if it’s the sixth leading cause of death, but it’s estimated that ninety eight thousand deaths occur annually due to mistakes in the hospital setting. And of course, the technology at LDS Hospital is designed to reduce those numbers of mistakes and enhance the quality of care people get.

Host: Let’s join onto the conversation another member of the committee, and that’s Dorothy Bazos. Good morning, Dorothy.

Ms. Bazos: Good morning.

Host: You’re a registered nurse, and a member of the Working Group. Were you on the tour yesterday at LDS?

Ms. Bazos: Yes, I was.

Host: And what did you see that impressed you?

Ms. Bazos: What I saw at LDS, as you know, LDS is a leader in health informatics. It was named among the most “wired” hospitals, and one of America’s best hospitals, by U.S. News and World Report, and we were privileged and want to thank them for taking us on this wonderful tour. What we learned there was that LDS has been using technology to enhance their clinical decision-making process. They are a leader in better health outcomes, and they use this technology to actually get a better, effective, more effective use of medications, and they are finding that this is actually lowering their costs.

Host: As a nurse, have you experienced situations where you felt like you were not getting the right kind of information that you need to deal with a particular patient’s problems?

Ms. Bazos: My clinical experience really is in the past, but this really isn’t about me, this is about what we’re trying to learn as a Citizens’ Working Group. And, what we are hoping is that, through our dialogue with the American public, we can actually listen and learn from the American citizens about their experience with the health care system.

Host: Who will be testifying tomorrow?

Ms. Bazos: I’m going to let Randy Johnson talk about who’s testifying, but among some of the people who are coming to the, to our hearing are the Comptroller General, David Walker, and Don Berwick from the Institute for Health Care Quality Improvement. Jack Wennberg from Dartmouth University, he’s a national leader on quality. David Blitzstein, Betsy Gilbertson, and I’ll let Randy fill you in on those two.

Host: Randy, can civilians just show up and testify as well? Will there be time for that?

Mr. Johnson: We are, we would certainly welcome citizens to join in listening to the testimony tomorrow, but the schedule, really, tomorrow calls for the invited experts to meet and provide information to the Working Group. Later on, we expect Town Hall meetings, or community meetings, on a nationwide basis, and we’ll do that with in-person meetings as well as meetings over a web site. At that time, citizens will have a greater opportunity to participate and share their input. It’s our expectation to develop a report based on the hearings that we’re conducting with invited experts, and then provide that report to citizens on a web site and in some cases, in print, and provide them an opportunity to give feedback using the web site or in these town hall meetings that I just discussed.

Host: What’s your impression, Randy, about the state of medical care in this country? As an employer, I can tell you that the fact that I’m getting hammered with fifteen to twenty percent increases in health insurance costs every year certainly has me concerned. And just as a citizen, I certainly am concerned that the single biggest problem I may face is some kind of a catastrophic medical problem. Is the system broke, or do we just need to tinker with it?

Mr. Johnson: Well, let me just start and be very positive. There’s no place in the world where I personally would prefer to receive health care than in the United States. We have technology and we have trained medical experts to treat us on a nationwide basis. However, even given that, there are recent studies that show that we, as citizens, receive the recommended care only about fifty five percent of the time. And that our health care costs have been skyrocketing in percentages of increase that most employers, and most citizens, cannot absorb. And finally, as you’re likely aware, we have nearly forty five million people who do not have coverage. So, when Senator Hatch and Senator Wyden worked together to develop the concept of this Working Group, their purpose of providing information to the public and then listening to the public was very well founded. We really do need to make some significant, significant improvements in our system, if it’s going to work for citizens on a nationwide basis.

Host: Okay, but the last time Washington tried to deal with the health care situation, it got bogged down in a huge mess, and I think for the politicians, this has kind of turned into the “third rail” of politics, kind of like Social Security with the docs saying it’s not the fact that we’re getting paid a lot of money, it’s the hospitals, they’re charging too much money, and then both the hospitals and the docs are saying that it’s the insurance companies that are driving the increasing costs because of the paperwork and all that kind of stuff. And for us average civilians, it’s kind of hard to sort all this out, Randy.

Mr. Johnson: I think you’re right, and I think there are also, on the other hand, two or three changes since that time. The first is something that relates to the methodology that Citizens’ Health Care Working Group is going to use. And that is, we are going to provide citizens with information and get their recommendations, which is something that wasn’t done as effectively as it might have been done ten years ago. The second thing that’s changed, I think, is that patients and citizens are becoming more informed regarding, and experiencing, the cost increases on a personal basis. And as they are experiencing that, and as they become increasingly aware of all the efficiencies, they are going to want to have some changes made.

And so, one of the things we are going to talk with the American public about is, what are the tradeoffs that they are interested in, and get information back from them before we share our recommendations with Congress and the President.

Host: Dorothy, what do you hope happens out of this whole thing?

Ms. Bazos: One of the ways that we will know that we have been successful is if the American public, average citizens, feel that we have really listened to them and to their concerns, and that the recommendations that we make to the President of the United States are their recommendations. That’s one of the ways that we will feel successful. Another way that we will feel successful is if we see those recommendations down the line being attributed to citizens and being actually developed as suggestions for policy.

Host: There are those that are pretty cynical about process in general, who would say that, you know, nothing really is going to happen, because the drug companies are huge contributors to the politicians, the insurance companies are huge contributors to the politicians, the AMA has a whole lot of influence back on the Hill… I mean, the political reality here is that there are so many vested interests, it seems that it’s going to be very difficult to get past that. Isn’t it, Randy?

Mr. Johnson: Well, clearly, every stakeholder has an interest in the system. And of course, the medical stakeholders have a financial interest in the system. Yet, American citizens are increasingly knowledgeable, and suffering, actually, the pains of the financial increases that they’re going to have to bear, and they are bearing. And so, it seems to us that this is an opportunity for us to bring some ideas together after listening to both the experts and the public. And then, provide the recommendations that will work.

And actually, in addition to that, there are already some bipartisan initiatives that are moving forward, some of which are in the technology are, some in the information-sharing area, some in the patient safety area. And so, again, times have changed a little bit since the early nineties, and I think there’s an increased recognition that there are changes that have to be made.

And then the final point to that is the medical stakeholders are increasingly working together to try to bring solutions to the public.

Host: We’ve run out of time. Again tell me, Randy, where and when this hearing is going to be.

Mr. Johnson: The hearing will be at the State Capitol, in the West Building, Room 125, tomorrow morning. It’ll start at 8:30, and David Walker, who’s the Comptroller General of the United States, will actually be the first testifying, and he’ll be talking about how the health care issues of today fit into the rest of the economic situation that we face. We’ll follow that with folks who will be speaking directly to the health care quality initiatives, followed by people who will be talking about health information technology. Then finally, the hearing will be ending around 2:30 to 3:00 o’clock with some folks talking about employer and union initiatives to bring about better information to patients on a nationwide basis.

Host: And I’m presuming that all of this probably exists on a web site someplace, where would that address be, Randy?

Mr. Johnson: Well, increasingly, we’ll be using the web site and providing information on the web site, and the following address is something that would be referenced: www citizenshealth, that’s one word, citizenshealth at ahrq.gov. Again, citizenshealth at ahrq.gov, G O V.

Host: All right, Randy, and Dorothy, thank you for your time.

[End of broadcast]

Editor’s note: The Citizens’ Health Care Working Group is an independent body whose members were selected by the Comptroller General of the United States. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides administrative support as directed by the Medicare Modernization Act.

For more information, contact the Working Group at (301) 443-1502.