Global Perspectives: Renewal and New Beginnings - Global Healthcare in 2022
Jan 07, 2022 Heitham Hassoun, MD
Happy New Year! In the spirit of renewal and new beginnings, let me invite you to take a leap of faith in how you might think about global healthcare in 2022—pandemics notwithstanding.
Imagine this: Through sustained international collaboration, healthcare systems create universal transparency around quality of care. Payers, as well as providers, establish consistent metrics for evaluating outcomes in a variety of key diagnoses, procedures and interventions. Dashboards compare key performance indicators across hospitals. The information is readily available in a comprehensive database.
To be sure, that vision faces substantial cultural, economic and political headwinds, not the least of which is that in most fields—and certainly in healthcare—sharing transparent data requires trust and a sustained commitment to collaboration. Medicine itself comes with challenges of its own. Biology is complex, no two individuals are identical, and if we hope to capture reliable metrics that can be shared across cultures, we will need to simplify the data without sacrificing its utility.
The challenges are real, but they don’t tell the whole story. Countries around the world are investing in healthcare on an unprecedented scale. To cite just a few examples from places I visited this past year, a new international medical cluster is being developed on a campus near Moscow, Russia. The recent opening of the American Hospital Tbilisi underscores the Caucasus' emergence as a medical destination for Central Asia. Serena del Mar, outside Cartagena, Colombia, is the latest high-tech, high-touch hospital in a country full of leading private healthcare destinations. Cedars-Sinai and other top U.S. institutions are developing dynamic partnerships in China, the Gulf countries and around the world.
This growth creates a moment of opportunity: Quality transparency can deepen confidence and trust in providers and accelerate the trend toward the global expansion of healthcare services. The Joint Commission International has taken a step in the right direction by creating standards of accreditation. Other accrediting bodies have begun to establish institutional networks aimed at sharing data. Leaders in the public and private sectors have begun to advocate for the creation of an international regulatory body tasked with monitoring quality of care.
Global transparency around quality of care has the potential to create many winners.
First and foremost, patients would win by gaining access to documented outcomes when they select a provider. Payers would no longer have to infer quality based on price and reputational guesswork. Governments and non-governmental organizations would win: The rational allocation of finite resources based on performance metrics is essential to achieving optimal population health. Providers would be incentivized to achieve quality outcomes—and those who succeed would win.
Our global conversation would benefit from a paradigm shift that declares health to be as central to our collective future as climate change, financial stability or agricultural sustainability. If we are genuinely resolved to advance the wellbeing of patients around the world, achieving international transparency in the quality of healthcare is nothing less than a global imperative.