Monday, 25 December 2017

More value for primary care

Xavier Bayona

A British Parliamentary report on primary health care in the National Health Service (NHS) was published at the end of April 2016. This report reflects the most relevant aspects of primary care such as the experience of care (satisfaction, accessibility, labour conflict and quality), new models of care, the construction of a new work team and financing. As you read the report, leaving aside some differences that exist between the primary care model of Great Britain and ours, the first thing that stands out is the ability they have to make a self-critical assessment and publish it. In our environment, it’s quite uncommon for self-critical assessments that engage and align professionals, managers and politicians in the improvement of services to be published.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Proximity versus quality

The proximity of the health services is a highly appreciated and defended value; not in vain regional hospitals have proliferated throughout the country as an essential instrument for territorial balance. The local organizations and the small communities have understood this and have protested fiercely against any councillor who has dared to suggest that it might be convenient to close some low-performing service. It seems generally accepted therefore; that the proximity of services is a value that favours the accessibility for dispersed populations and improves the equity of the system. However, it doesn’t escape anyone that too often, maintaining the quality of certain services when located far from the centres of reference is a challenge in itself.

This reflection has come to my mind after reading an article in the New England Journal of Medicine by Michael Porter and Thomas Lee "Why strategy matters now". One may rightly say that this source is a little far-fetched for the dilemma that I raised, especially and fortunately because the problems of our health system are very different from those of the North American system, but in return, I’ll insist that after rereading it, it seemed to me that the recipe of the two authors from Harvard can be useful in offering rational elements to the controversy around the proximity – an issue that always seems to be politicized.

Let's consider Porter&Lee’s 6 strategic proposals that can be tailored to our concerns:

1. The main objective of any strategy must be the value it brings

To give a couple of examples, in a strategy of chronic disease, community work is a value in itself; on the other hand, for the infarction code, the efficacy of clinical action is the tracer axis, so the planner must know how to balance the dispersion of the services with the excellence of the results.

2. Organization charts must be redesigned according to the needs of patients and processes

We ought to abandon the current organizational charts based on bodies, systems and levels of care and advance to multidisciplinary teams that are organized according to the needs of patients, who are responsible globally for clinical processes and that are accountable according to the value obtained ( remember that Porter’s value is the relation between clinical results and costs).

3. The portfolio of services must be adjusted to the organization’s capabilities 

In order to fulfil the main objective, hospitals must identify the services in which they are able to provide value, declining to maintain an offer that doesn’t correspond to their real possibilities or to the desired results. This adjustment is valid both for the regional hospitals’ historical difficulties in retaining talent, as well as for mid-level centres that despite all reason, focus on tertiarism as a sign of identity.

4. Clinical management units should be oriented to clinical effectiveness

The multidisciplinary teams must evolve towards "integrated" clinical management units when they have the capacity to approach a sufficient number of patients and the results obtained are good enough. In this situation, the units must be endowed with the essential resources, and even financing models based on adjusted capital or objectives, as the case may be.

5. Synergies can solve many of the current problems

To overcome the problems of excess installed capacity, duplicities, or the desire to act beyond the real possibilities, organizations must have the vision of generating synergies to solve these imbalances. Concentrating services to a single point or sharing professional teams are two strategies that, when they have been implemented rightly, yielded good results.

6. The referring hospitals must elaborate more strategies by looking at the territory

We ought to further deepen the current strategy of opening referring hospitals in the territory, with all kinds of agreements with hospitals of lower hierarchies. In the same way that it’s not good for regional hospitals to practice tertiarism, it’s also unreasonable for referring centres to dedicate their costly structures to solving case-mix typical of community centres.

It would be advisable that we take advantage of the lessons of Michael Porter and Thomas Lee in order to overcome the dilemma of proximity versus quality, generating more professional and social debate about the value of health services, since it’s pointless to have an emergency unit at every corner if we can’t support them, every day of the week and all hours of the day (and night), with qualified professionals.

Jordi Varela

Monday, 11 December 2017

8 future proposals for primary care

Primary care is the key to the good running of the health system and therefore it must be promoted, protected, improved and, above all, invest in it. Many countries are immersed in renewal processes of their primary care and, therefore, we must be attentive to the contributions we receive, especially those in the United Kingdom, where primary care is very similar to ours. In an earlier post, I reviewed a paper by the Royal College of General Practitioners that provided an insight into the role of family physicians in 2022, and in this same direction I have a report from a committee of experts of the National Health Service Primary Care Workforce Commission), which has developed a set of reform proposals aimed at strengthening the future of primary health care, broader than the previous one which was limited to a corporate vision.

Monday, 4 December 2017

We need a fish tank

Pere Vivó

The American psychologist Barry Schwartz, who can be read frequently in The New York Times or listened to in TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences, invites us to reflect on the paradox of choice. His talk begins with what he calls the "official dogma" of all Western industrial societies, which states: "If we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens, the way to do so is to maximize individual freedom." The reason for this is that freedom itself is good, valuable, praiseworthy and essential for human beings: "If people have freedom, each of us can act on their own to do things that will maximize our well-being and no one will have to make decisions for us. The way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice: the more possibilities people have, the more freedom and greater well-being they will have."