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May 28, 2010 > Santa Clara County prepares for health care reform

Santa Clara County prepares for health care reform

Submitted By Gwen Mitchell and Laurel Anderson

On May 25, 2010, following County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith's recommendation, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took two actions that will help the Santa Clara County Health and Hospital System (HHS) ensure it is prepared for Health Care Reform. The Board approved a contract with Alvarez & Marsal which recently reviewed the Valley Medical Center's finances and operations. The Board also approved the creation of the Santa Clara County Health Care Reform Advisory Team.

Alvarez & Marsal will focus on three principal areas - preparing for Health Care Reform; improving cost discipline; and establishing operational targets using external peer-group benchmarks, including measures of patient satisfaction, community quality standards, and employee involvement. This approach will enable the HHS to integrate services across the continuum of care and improve internal controls and management of key cost centers.

Under Health Care Reform, the nation's health delivery system is shifting to disease prevention, wellness and chronic-disease management. The new focus intends to avoid costly in-patient care and preventable deaths. Traditionally, hospitals have relied on generating revenue through increased visits.

The County also recently placed a renewed emphasis on the role of the Public Health Department (Public Health). Public Health will play a greater role in outreach and community education to help residents understand the connection between behavior and lifestyle choices and preventable chronic disease.

The Board also approved the creation of a Health Care Reform Advisory Team which will include clients, staff, partners, unions and State and federal representatives and share its best thinking with the County Executive. The Team will meet regularly to discuss and identify strategic issues that need to be addressed by the County.

"The County health care system is the foundation of our local safety net. Its services are vital to our community's well-being," said Supervisor Ken Yeager, President of the Board of Supervisors. "The Health Care Reform Advisory Team will help ensure all interested parties' input is considered in the decision-making process."

"When President Obama signed the Health Care Reform Bill in March, we knew it would bring sweeping changes to the health care system," said Supervisor Liz Kniss, Chair of the County's Health and Hospital Committee. "For the average person, the questions were about whether it would affect their current status. For counties that deliver health care, the question is 'How can we prepare and organize to leverage each and every opportunity to deliver excellent health care, and achieve the best health outcomes for our community?'"

"We realize it's not possible to 'treat' our way out of the health care crises that exist in this country," said Smith. "We must focus on prevention. The staggering rate of chronic disease among the aging, baby-boomer population and today's young people signals trouble ahead."

"Given the limits on public financial resources, we must invest today to re-structure how we deliver services at every level of government," concluded Smith.

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