Can Connecticut Become a Leader in Controlling Health Care Costs and Improving Quality?   

By Jill Zorn 

c997834_l.jpgThe Center for American Progress produced a report in April, State Options to Control Health Care Costs and Improve Quality.  Citing examples from different states, the report lays out a laundry list of effective health system transformation efforts that states are undertaking, never mentioning Connecticut once in any of the examples.

Does this mean that Connecticut is not working on health care cost and quality or payment and delivery reform?  Not at all.  But we are certainly not top-of-mind when lists are compiled of innovative programs initiated by states.

There is hope, however, of advancing our state’s chances of joining the ranks of leader states.

Connecticut’s Health Care Cabinet, as required by PA 15-146, is conducting a study of known leader states, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon, Maryland and Washington.  The goal is to “identify successful practices and programs that may be implemented in Connecticut to…monitor and control health care costs…improve quality of care and health outcomes.”  Bailit Health, is providing consulting support to the effort, which is funded by both the state and several foundations, including Universal Health Care Foundation.

Thanks to the Cabinet process, reports like the one mentioned above from the Center for American Progress and other resources, people in Connecticut now have much more information about what is going on in other states that we might want to emulate.

Beyond the list of possible actions to take, there are important elements of a successful strategy that are beginning to emerge.  They include:

  • Establishing structures that promote coordination and alignment across both public and private efforts
  • Building the ability to collect, analyze and disseminate data

If you watch today’s meeting on CT-N, and review the accompanying slides, it becomes more evident that Connecticut faces perhaps an even greater challenge to earn recognition as a leader state.

That is because some of the keys to success that are identified by the Cabinet study are not about strategy, they are about culture.  These attributes include:

  • Stakeholder trust and collaboration
  • A history of strong leadership by state government
  • Commitment to innovation

As many pointed out in their interviews with the consultants that were synthesized in today’s Cabinet presentation, these elements are not present nearly enough in Connecticut’s current health reform environment.

There is a saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  For Connecticut to succeed in shaping a health care system that truly meets the needs of the people in our state, we will surely need less finger-pointing and defending of turf and more trust, respect and bold leadership.

A good place to start is with the Cabinet itself.  If Cabinet members are able to show it is possible for various stakeholders to work together in new and better ways, it will be an important first step in what is sure to be a long, daunting journey.

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