A recently published cost of living index report indicates that Wilmington has the highest health care cost index in our region.
While I am confident the report sponsors - The Council for Community and Economic Research - do a lot of good in helping communities improve their overall economies via data-driven findings, I have to take issue with this current study.
Wilmington Health has recently been communicating the tremendous gains in our area toward reducing costs, increasing quality and improving the patient experience that are all in direct conflict with the data provided here. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to assist all of us in understanding what this data means, where it comes from and how we at Wilmington Health are meeting all the challenges in health care head-on.
First, if we are going to make real change happen in the health care industry, it is important we have good data on which we can make informed decisions.
There were five cost data points used to determine the health care index:
- Full vision exam for established adult patient
- General practitioner’s routine examination of established patient
- Adult teeth cleaning
- Advil brand Ibuprofen (200mg, 100 tablets)
- One carton (five pens) of Insulin glargine (Lantus Solostar brand)
While these are all valid data points, I am not sure how these five rather simple indicators truly define the overall cost of healthcare in our area. For most in our community, these five data points are only a small portion of the health-related encounters and purchases they may see in any one year. I don’t think we determine whether a new family room addition for our house is too high-priced based on the new window treatment, throw rug and table lamp.
To illustrate that point, let’s take the second factor of a general practitioner’s routine examination with a 45-year-old female as an example. It is recommended that a female that age receive the following screenings between the ages of 40 to 49 every one to two years, given family history, for cholesterol, blood pressure, breast cancer, cervical cancer/HPV and diabetes.
All these items are coordinated through your primary care provider and require various levels of lab work and imaging to ensure that this patient is in great health or a health concern is quickly caught at an early stage.
Just from one routine exam, there may be 10 to 12 additional health encounters, each with additional costs that are required to provide a high level of care and keep the patient healthy. My point is that healthcare costs cannot be boiled down to such a few data points and provide direction toward making real change.
Wilmington Health is working with several governmental and private data-mining entities to get at the truth of health care costs. From the findings of those efforts, we have been using that data to make real decisions that are impacting the overall cost of health care for our patients.
While we still have progress to make, we are proud that our efforts are beginning to take hold. Recent government data indicates Wilmington Health patients see, in some cases, a 25 percent yearly savings versus other providers in the communities we serve. We are intensely focused on driving change in the health care industry and providing our patients with the best that health care has to offer.
Jeff James is the chief executive officer at Wilmington Health and part of the team of providers and staff driving change in the health care system to reduce cost, improve quality and enhance the patient experience.