Summit: Skyrocketing Healthcare Costs

West Health Institute’s “Healthcare Costs Innovation Summit” (HCI/DC 2018) gathered leaders representing many sectors of healthcare on February 21 2018 in Washington D.C. The speakers and attendees focused on spotlighting the best ideas, innovations, and practical policy solutions to find ways to deal with the immediate healthcare cost crisis in America. They all are in agreement that bold actions need to take place.

West Health Founder, Gary West wants to see the fee-for-service model abolished, reduce the high cost for prescription drugs, provide transparency so everyone has information on costs, and make sure the data is simple to access. Correcting the system will require developing innovative and new business models that are workable and affordable care to all.

Shelley Lyford President and CEO West Health, voiced her ideas on how today’s business models applying to our healthcare systems are draining our resources, experiencing inefficiencies, making healthcare costs skyrocket, and importantly, providing volume of care over value of care. As a result, the healthcare financing system in this country is driving people into poverty which has resulted in more patients experiencing ill health.

Summit Keynoter, Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, for Forbes Media, presented his thoughts on how to deal with the current cost crisis in healthcare in this country. He reports that the three trillion a year cost crisis has resulted in citizens spending 16 percent of their income on medical care, geriatrics is withering on the vine, Medicaid is faltering, high costs are producing disconnected providers and consumers, and many providers and health systems using electronic records are not achieving interoperability.

Steve Forbes asks the question, “If we were able to reduce the cost for cars over the years, able to produce car phones that are smaller and cheaper than they were 30 years ago, reduce the cost to buy some foods as a result of progress being made in agriculture, then why can’t this country reduce healthcare costs?

Several ideas were presented during the Summit to address the crisis situation:

  • Enable people to shop for the health care insurance that is right for their needs
  • Develop transparency so that patients know what procedures are going to cost
  • Address the fact that people are dying from infections in hospitals when this could be avoided
  • Handle pharmacy benefits management in a more responsible manner
  • Provide for more acute urgent care centers
  • Ramp up the approval process for drugs
  • Provide flexibility to states regarding Medicaid issues
  • Encourage health savings accounts


Surgeon, Writer, Public Health Researcher, Dr. Atul Gawande, looked back at the history of healthcare in terms of the lack of medications and surgical procedures that existed years ago. He pointed out, “Although the U.S has expanded research resources to provide for solutions to medical and health diseases and issues, mortality is still higher than it should be in the 21st century.

He explained, “In the past five years, mortality rates have greatly improved as a result of important discoveries made in treating cancer, heart disease, HIV, and chronic conditions. However, this is not the case with all patients.

It has been shown that even today, only forty percent of Americans  receive the correct treatment for high blood pressure. Treating chronic conditions is often difficult and may add to healthcare expenses since chronic conditions can differ with many patients and be hard to treat necessitating the use of additional tests and medicines which may result in higher costs.

Dr Gawande emphasized, “Delivering quality care requires using data systems to supply the correct and much needed information in order to deliver care in the right way, at the right time, to the right people.”

In addition, one of the questions continually discussed during the day asked “Where is the Value?”  Conversations took place between the attendees and the speakers on ways to accelerate the shift from payment based on volume to payments based on value while ensuring that all stakeholder incentives and penalties are aligned with cost, quality, and better health outcomes.

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