Healthcare Reform and VMC – game on!

As you probably heard this morning, the United States Supreme Court has upheld (nearly all of) the Affordable Care Act.

Nevermind the politics – from a policy perspective (and the “everyone needs access to affordable, quality healthcare perspective”), this is a very, very good thing.

Because here at Silicon Valley’s public medical center, we are on the front lines of America’s healthcare crisis. Doing nothing was never an option, no matter how the Supreme Court ruled.

Since that act was signed by President Obama in 2009, VMC has been hard at work planning for change. Part of the ACA that isn’t being tweeted about today is a big deal for VMC and other “Safety Net” medical centers. “Disproportionate Share” hospitals (those who serve more under/un-insured than hospitals around them) like ours get a reimbursement from the federal government today based on numbers: How many we serve, what procedures they get, etc. Under ACA, that’s changing, and for the better: We now must demonstrate that we’re improving their health, that patients are satisfied with their care, and that we’re able to measure those positive outcomes.

Like it or not, healthcare in America is still a competitive business. The advancements VMC is making will help us compete… As we prepare to open our new world-class hospital (the Sobrato Pavilion), it’s time to “turn the ocean liner.” That takes time and toil. But gone are the days when it’s enough to tally the uninsured we serve and what we do for them, report it to the Feds, and get reimbursed. VMC must compete for dollars by demonstrating better outcomes for all we serve.

With the Affordable Care Act punctuating the need for change, VMC must evolve past the “fee for service” model that’s been the norm, more or less, for 160 years. For its imperfections, Obamacare will make this easier, but it’s already happening and there is no going back.

And that’s not all. VMC is preparing to enroll and provide care to tens of thousands of local residents who will become eligible for Medi-Cal in 2014. And as the region’s largest teaching hospital (1 in 4 area physicians were trained at VMC, including all students at the Stanford University School of Medicine), VMC will play a critical role in training the healthcare workforce of the future that will need to rapidly expand to care for all these newly insured people.

The VMC Foundation is also playing a part, thanks to the help of innovative funders like the Moore Foundation, The Health Trust, El Camino Hospital District, Kaiser, the Sobrato family and more. We are proud to be promoting, working on, and raising funds for the most critical parts VMC’s transformation. And not to belabor the point, but these transformative programs aren’t a response to Congress or the courts; we’re doing them because it’s the way healthcare MUST change, because it’s better for VMC, and most importantly, better for the patients and community we serve. Here’s just a sample of the projects the VMC Foundation is supporting to make healthcare reform a reality at VMC –

  • Patients with congestive heart failure are being better prepared to leave the hospital and manage their conditions, thus reducing readmission rates.
  • System-wide campaigns to improve the patient experience – more quiet, more communication, more customer service.
  • Our Healthier Living Program helps diabetics control their disease, as you may have read about in the Wall Street Journal (yes, that was a boast).
  • Heard about the “medical home model?” It’s happening at a Valley Health Center near you. One door = a team of health pros with you at the center of the team.
  • Electronic health records? On-line link to your doctor, meds, history and appointments? We’re building it as I type.
  • Access to fresh fruit and veggies is hard for many VMC patients. Coming soon: Our on-campus Farmers’ Market!
  • You’ve heard of VMC’s renowned spinal cord injury rehab center? How about spinal cord injury CURE? We’re on the forefront of new technologies that are astounding and magical.

One more time: We’re doing all this anyway. But with today’s decision, it’s going to be easier.


Electronic medical records: It’s going to be Epic!

Jeff Scarafia of Epic, presenting June 5 to a group of county health leaders. His slide shows just a few of the medical centers using Epic.

Yesterday I got to learn a bit more about Epic, the system being implemented here at Valley Medical Center to catapult us into the 21st century!

That’s not even hyperbole: Epic is truly epic. Once it’s fully implemented, we’ll be part of a growing national network of medical systems using the same electronic medical record platform…and we’ll all benefit.

I’ll be able to make appointments or change them right from my computer at home or iPhone. Accessing lab results, re-ordering medications? All a snap. History of my constant, frustrating battle to lose weight? The info is at my fingertips.

But most importantly, if I’m visiting Epic’s HQ in Wisconsin, and I’m wandering through a field and get hit by a cow*, the local trauma center using Epic will have instant access to my medical history and know that I’m allergic to Bovinabutanol.**

This is technology that will truly save lives – maybe mine, maybe yours. And just another great innovative step being taken by our public hospital. Learn more at

* This is unlikely to happen.

** I totally made up that medication.