Ever since I began working as a program officer at the John A. Hartford Foundation, I’ve tried to do my best to put myself in the shoes of the health professionals with whom we’ve worked and whose education and training historically has been one of our main concerns.
I’ve often found memoirs and other lightly fictionalized accounts to be the best way to get into the culture and daily experience of these health professionals. I’ve read Samuel Shem’s The House of God, countless memoirs of nurses and physicians, and even a very affecting memoir of a nurse’s aide in a nursing home.
One of the tricks of such reading is that we experience what our imagination and the author’s words together conjure in a special state of willing suspension of disbelief. Psychological research suggests that this process of imagination and purposeful lowering of critical skepticism is, in fact, what makes fiction so persuasive and engenders the feeling that novelists understand a truth about human character that other ways of knowing can’t match.
I bet every reader of Health AGEnda knows someone who is a family caregiver (many see one every day in the mirror). And I bet every family member or friend providing care to an older adult who needs assistance because of chronic disease or frailty has their stories of good and bad days—of feeling incredibly fulfilled and completely overwhelmed.
Caregivers have much in common with each other, and our policies and systems need several overarching improvements to address caregiver needs. That is why the John A. Hartford Foundation is supporting an Institute of Medicine study to lay out the top level policy and practice recommendations (For more information, read New Grants Target Policy and Practice Change.)
However, it is worth noting that not all caregiving is the same. A recent analysis funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation from the AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund points to the especially difficult circumstances of those who care for people with cognitive impairment (such asAlzheimer’s or other dementias) and/or behavioral health conditions (such as depression, anxiety or serious mental illness), referred to in the study together as “challenging behaviors.”
From left, featured experts Peggy O’Kane, Robert Berenson, and Caroline Blaum listen intently.
Like so many stakeholders in health care, we at the John A. Hartford Foundation have many of our hopes pinned on enhanced primary care as a way of improving health outcomes, particularly for older Americans who face multiple chronic conditions.
Primary care providers will need more skills, more teammates, community partners, and, of course, more money, to live up to these hopes. But we believe that better primary care can prevent some of the acute and expensive events such as hospitalizations that they experience, and thereby also lower total costs of health care.
July is an important month in history, with Bastille Day, on July 14, coming just 10 days after our own 4th of July. So what better time to consider issues of justice and equality?
There are lots of different ways to interpret equality: equality of outcomes, equality of opportunity, or perhaps—as an even more complex relative equality—matching of resources to individuals’ needs.
In the context of improving health care delivery to older adults, there are several important examples of these principles of equality in what is called “risk adjustment.” And I find myself with very different reactions to the different kinds.
We swim in an ever expanding ocean of electronic data.
Every Google search or credit card transaction can be aggregated and analyzed by companies that often seem to know what we want before we do. With new and cheaper analytic tools and more sophisticated modeling, the result is the ability to individualize and target, as well as spot broad trends among populations.
In health care, the explosion of electronic health records is adding to the sea of data that already exists from billing and claims. This raises a number of questions, including: Continue reading →
The grants totaling $2.13 million will support an additional 44 Health and Aging Policy Fellows (HAPF) over the next three years and help co-support a new Institute of Medicine (IOM) study on family caregiving of older adults. Both projects also offer great opportunities for our new Hartford Change AGEnts to bring their talents, expertise, and skills to bear on important issues related to creating policy and practice change that improves the health of older Americans.
Last week on Health AGEnda, I stuck up for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) in the face of what seemed to me fairly unrealistic criticism from a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
I approached the issue from my perspective as a funder and as a very, very, much smaller player in the reform of the health care delivery system than CMMI. It got me thinking that, while I have offered advice directly to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and CMMI staff and mentioned various concerns here on the blog in passing, I haven’t really tried to think through what our experience at Hartford suggests might help CMMI be as effective as possible.
CMMI is the big player in health care delivery reform—the changes to culture, training, regulation, payment, and organization in health care that we all hope will lead to higher quality care, a healthier public, and lower costs of care per capita.
Dr. Julie Bynum moderates the Health Affairs briefing on the special issue on Alzheimer’s disease.
We all have Alzheimer’s disease.
This is a key message I took away from the April special Alzheimer’s issue of Health Affairs, the country’s leading health policy journal. One of the contributing authors, Jason Karlawish, makes this point writing about the ethical challenges inherent in caring for patients losing their cognitive abilities and autonomy. Inevitably, the disease belongs to caregivers and other people in that patient’s life.