Dr. Noseworthy Meets the Press

In a week that has featured the back-and-forth crossfire between pundits and lawmakers over budget priorities, it was refreshing to have a genuine healthcare expert, Mayo Clinic President and CEO John Noseworthy, M.D., come to Washington and share a comprehensive vision of the steps needed to improve our nation’s medical system.

In his speech at the National Press Club, Dr. Noseworthy said that we are facing “the most profound challenge in our history” in terms of the state of healthcare in the U.S. and that a growing senior population , rising costs, fragmented care and uneven quality are presenting a “threat to the economic health” of the nation.

The Mayo CEO cited three imperatives that must be addressed in order to achieve health care progress.  The first, he said, is to put proven medical knowledge into practice more consistently.  He said this require better tools for synthesizing the massive amount of new health care information that inundates medical professionals.    Dr. Noseworthy, who defined knowledge as Mayo’s “most scalable asset,” said it is necessary to deliver new information as fast as it is known to assist health care providers in their communities.

Secondly, he said, it is necessary for all players in the health care system to embrace value, or higher quality at lower cost.  And his third cited imperative was that government must fund excellence, support scientific discovery and create payment systems that reward quality, value, excellence and innovation at each level of care – primary, intermediate and complex.

He explained that government, in administering the Medicare and Medicaid programs, must find ways to reward those systems that provide excellence care, rather than try to achieve a sounder financial footing through across-the-board cuts.  “If you pay everyone less, you turn health care into a commodity, and it isn’t a commodity,” he said.

Other significant comments from Dr. Noseworthy included:

•    That federal budget sequestration will cost the Mayo Clinic $47 million in one year, half of it coming out of medical research.  “It will slow us down,” he said, “and this is not a time to restrain racehorses in America.”

•    That Medicare cuts to health providers have extensive ramifications.  Dr. Noseworthy said close to 60% of Mayo’s patients are on Medicare.  He said Medicare cuts slow the pace of research and make it more difficult to attract top professionals.

•    The Affordable Care Act does much to improve primary care, “but sooner or later, and particularly as we age, most people will need intermediate care and complex care.  More work is needed to create and ensure a high-quality continuum of care for Americans.”