11 May 2017 - Dr. Alexander Li, Deputy Director of Care Transitions and System Integrations at the LA County Department of Health Services, was the keynote speaker at EHSSENTIALS 2017 UCLA, a healthcare industry Environmental Health & Safety symposium hosted by Kaiser Permanente and BSI, the British Institute of Standards. The talk began with Li explaining a key issue with the US healthcare industry today - the lack of access to healthcare among US residents (particularly among the poor, people of color, and illegal residents) despite the US healthcare industry’s ability to provide high-quality healthcare, and the vast, if not excessive, amount of money circulating through it.
Dr. Li acknowledged that many people within the healthcare industry have different ideas for what the future of healthcare should look like, but he listed the following as his desired outcomes from healthcare improvement efforts:
(1) improved healthcare quality,
(2) reduced chronic illness,
(3) fewer health disparities between races/classes, and
(4) financial stability for both patients and providers.
Li’s key idea for achieving these outcomes? Diverting funding from emergency care to preventative care, such as vaccines, environmental health, community outreach and communication, etc.
One example he gave was the new David L. Murphy Sobering Center in Los Angeles, which lets overly inebriated people sober up comfortably over the course of a day, rather than getting unnecessary IVs and other costly treatments at a hospital. By diverting non-emergency needs away from the emergency room, the Center makes the system more efficient for everyone.
Dr. Li’s desired outcomes are likely achievable given enough unity and effort. However, Li’s talk of a unified vision for the future of healthcare fell short of explaining how one could begin to sway opposing opinions, apart from acknowledging that such opinions exist. And with a bill like the AHCA (American Health Care Act) having almost been passed, it seems US healthcare might move further from Li’s desired outcomes before it begins to move closer to them.