Duluth gathering seeks health care fix
The session was behind schedule and Marsha Hystead already had given the audience "one last question" with Philip Kurtz, CEO of an Oklahoma-based health management company. But hands still were raised in the Spirit of the North Theater at Fitger'...
The session was behind schedule and Marsha Hystead already had given the audience "one last question" with Philip Kurtz, CEO of an Oklahoma-based health management company.
But hands still were raised in the Spirit of the North Theater at Fitger's.
"This is great," Hystead said. "We're going to talk for a few more minutes."
The message: Holding to a strict time schedule isn't imperative when a think tank is being birthed.
Hystead's decision occurred Tuesday morning shortly after the beginning of a two-day, invitation-only conference in Duluth with an immodest goal: fixing health care in the U.S.
"Institutions aren't going to change health care," said Mike Seyfer, CEO of Duluth-based marketing firm Hailey Sault, which organized what it calls the "Believe in Better Project."
"As we experienced a real lack of willingness to reinvent and revolutionize health care, where we did see it were in these startups, these smaller companies, companies that are willing to take on the issues that big institutions just can't or won't," he said.
What Seyfer and Hystead wanted to do, they said, was bring 50 of those innovative thinkers into one place for two days in an intimate setting. They'd hear addresses in the style of the popular TED talks, exchange ideas and discuss how things that are working in some places could be transferred to a larger scale.
But the goal is to go beyond that, they said, and begin a think tank that would begin to influence health policy.
"That would be our hope," said Hystead, the firm's chief creative officer. "And (Wednesday) afternoon, the whole afternoon is centered around: Now what? How are we going to form something here to continue this conversation?"
As a starting point, there seemed to be unanimous agreement among those in attendance about the need for reform.
Gray Miller, founder of Titanium Healthcare in California, began his presentation by pointing out that the U.S. has about 25 percent of the world's $80 trillion economy. "So how many people here believe we have the best health care in the world?" he asked.
No hands were raised.
"How many of us have seen a loved one being treated horribly in the system?" he followed up, and about half of the hands in the theater went up.
"My stepfather nearly died because of the domino effect of bad stuff (in health care)," Miller said. "I'm outraged that we live in the most prosperous country in the world and yet all of us, it seems, have had a horrible experience with our health care system."
For both Kurtz and Miller, part of the prescription involves time. Kurtz's company, CareATC, has 30-minute doctor visits as the norm, he said. For Titanium Healthcare, it's 50 minutes, Miller said.
Miller, a graduate of the Navy's nuclear engineering program who previously led a hospitalist company in Houston, started his company two years ago. Its five clinics specialize in patients who are most at risk for hospitalization, including a million people in the Los Angeles area. One of its clinics is a mile from Skid Row, and 22,000 of L.A.'s 45,000 homeless are among its patients.
"You know what I would have said is that they'd be horribly noncompliant," Miller said of the homeless. "They're actually pretty compliant, and grateful for the fact that a doc will spend 50 minutes with them."
Titanium also helps its patients get to the clinic, he said.
"Transportation? No problem," Miller said. "We'll pay for it. In the big scheme ... why wouldn't we? Why would we make it hard for them?"
An audience member suggested that no one else in the room worked for a system that would allow 30- or 50-minute doctor visits. But Miller argued that it pays off. Titanium reduced costs by 25 percent, he said, and raised revenue by 30 percent.
Readmission to the hospital within 30 days for its Medicaid patients dropped from 18 percent to 1.7 percent and Medicare patients are at 4.7 percent readmission. The average cost for hospitalization of a Medicare patient is $20,000, Miller said. "So by reducing one admission we just saved 20 grand."
The conference was to continue with talks from a Shamanic healer, an expert on addiction treatment and a specialist on transgender issues, among others.