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Have you heard of the Health Care Transformation Task Force? Probably not, but hopefully we will all experience its impact soon.

The task force “is an industry consortium that brings together patients, payors, providers, and purchasers to align private and public sector efforts to clear the way for a sweeping transformation of the U.S. healthcare system,” says the organization’s website. Members include six of the nation’s top 15 health systems, four of the top 25 health insurers, and leading national organizations representing employers and patients and their families.

Specifically, it aims to promote what has been called “value-based,” or “patient-centered” and now “person-centered” healthcare (the terminology depends on the organization that’s talking). The concern is that our healthcare system is organized around doctors and diseases, not patients. Patients are expected to do what providers instruct them to do, and patients and their caregivers rarely have a say in the matter.

The Health Care Transformation Task Force has identified a framework for change to move toward “person-centered, value-based payment programs” using the following principles:

  • Include patients/consumers as partners in decision-making at all levels of care.
  • Deliver person-centered care.
  • Design alternative payment models (APMs) that benefit consumers.
  • Drive continuous quality improvement.
  • Accelerate use of person-centered health information technology.
  • Promote health equity for all.

What is “person-centered” care? Critics of traditional healthcare liken it a military organization, with the doctor at the top, giving orders to patients, specialists, pharmacists, therapists, and facilities. For patients, it often feels more like a maze, going from provider to provider, none of which communicate with one another. Treatment is ordered by doctors and based mostly on metrics, statistics, and clinical research, not based on the needs and desires of a specific patient.

The new vision is more of a hub and spoke model, with the patient at the center, surrounded by a circle of healthcare providers. For cancer patients, for example, providers include oncologists and other medical specialists, as well as insurers, pharmacists, wellness programs, support groups, and home care providers. Joining the patient at the center of the wheel may be family members, trusted advisors and the patient’s primary care doctor, helping coordinate a team that is working in unison to achieve the best possible patient experience.

Another element of person-centered care is that it is proactive. For most patients, they see their doctor and leave. There is little communication until something goes wrong, in which case an office or hospital visit is required. The problem is then fixed, until the next problem occurs. It’s all reactive. The person-centered model includes more frequent interaction between the patient and doctors by phone or computer, with regular assessments and record keeping. This improves patient adherence to their healthcare plan, and also gives patients the chance to provide feedback and update their doctor regarding their condition.

The good news is that the U.S. healthcare system is moving in the patient’s direction. The Health Care Transformation Task Force is one effort among many, some more formal than others, to change the system. Last year Medicare changed its reimbursement codes to allow doctors to bill for “non-face-to-face” visits with patients, where doctors and clinical staff can check in with patients by phone or computer twice per month.

P5 Connect, for example, has built a technology platform that enables pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, patients, physician, and payors to collaborate in the delivery of specialty and infused medications and to deliver Chronic Care Management services.

No doubt it will take time for a system as large, complex, and decentralized as our healthcare system to change. Processes and standards that have been in place for decades won’t be reinvented overnight, but the process has begun.

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