Rather than improving efficiency, the reforms imposed on the NHS have increased bureaucracy, reduced patient choice, limited the range of core services, and led to inequity of treatment. In this paper I examine how the medical profession might help to solve these problems. Priorities must be set for health care since no government can afford all the possibilities offered by medical science. It is essential to forge a consensus of patients, carers, professionals, the public, and government if a system of priorities is to be equitable and just. We also need to be able to measure quality of outcome in health care. This requires consensus on what is the desired outcome and the development of appropriate guidelines, audit, and performance review. This is primarily a task for the health professions supported by management and by adequate investment. Basically, the government must reinstate the three traditional values of the NHS--equity, consensus, and regard for representative professional advice.
This article considers some of the effects of health sector reform on human resources for health (HRH) in developing countries and countries in transition by examining the effect of fiscal reform and the introduction of decentralisation and market mechanisms to the health sector.
Fiscal reform results in pressure to measure the staff outputs of the health sector. Financial decentralisation often leads to hospitals becoming "corporatised" institutions, operating with business principles but remaining in the public sector. The introduction of market mechanisms often involves the formation of an internal market within the health sector and market testing of different functions with the private sector. This has immediate implications for the employment of health workers in the public sector, because the public sector may reduce its workforce if services are purchased from other sectors or may introduce more short-term and temporary employment contracts.
Decentralisation of budgets and administrative functions can affect the health sector, often in negative ways, by reducing resources available and confusing lines of accountability for health workers. Governance and regulation of health care, when delivered by both public and private providers, require new systems of regulation.
The increase in private sector provision has led health workers to move to the private sector. For those remaining in the public sector, there are often worsening working conditions, a lack of employment security and dismantling of collective bargaining agreements.
Human resource development is gradually being recognised as crucial to future reforms and the formulation of health policy. New information systems at local and regional level will be needed to collect data on human resources. New employment arrangements, strengthening organisational culture, training and continuing education will also be needed.
The relationship between health sector reform and the human resources issues raised in that process has been highlighted in several studies. These studies have focused on how the new processes have modified the ways in which health workers interact with their workplace, but few of them have paid enough attention to the ways in which the workers have influenced the reforms.
The impact of health sector reform has modified critical aspects of the health workforce, including labor conditions, degree of decentralization of management, required skills and the entire system of wages and incentives. Human resources in health, crucial as they are in implementing changes in the delivery system, have had their voice heard in many subtle and open ways – reacting to transformations, supporting, blocking and distorting the proposed ways of action.
This work intends to review the evidence on how the individual or collective actions of human resources are shaping the reforms, by spotlighting the reform process, the workforce reactions and the factors determining successful human resources participation. It attempts to provide a more powerful way of predicting the effects and interactions in which different "technical designs" operate when they interact with the human resources they affect. The article describes the dialectic nature of the relationship between the objectives and strategies of the reforms and the objectives and strategies of those who must implement them.
Since the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, reform activities have targeted various spheres, including the health sector. Several international aid and UN organizations have been involved, as well as local and international non-governmental organizations, with considerable financial and technical investments. Although important achievements have been made, it is not evident that the quality of care has improved or that the most pressing health needs have been addressed, even before the second Palestinian Uprising that began in September 2000. The crisis of the Israeli re-invasion of Palestinian-controlled towns and villages since April 2002 and the attendant collapse of state structures and services have raised the problems to critical levels. This paper attempts to analyze some of the obstacles that have faced reform efforts. In our assessment, those include: ongoing conflict, frail Palestinian quasi-state structures and institutions, multiple and at times inappropriate donor policies and practices in the health sector, and a policy vacuum characterized by the absence of internal Palestinian debate on the type and direction of reform the country needs to take. In the face of all these considerations, it is important that reform efforts be flexible and consider realistically the political and economic contexts of the health system, rather than focus on mere narrow technical, managerial and financial solutions imported from the outside.
health sector reform; conflict; Occupied Palestinian Territories
In this paper the real role and place of human resource (HR) in health system reform will be discussed and determined within the whole system through the comprehensive Human Resource Management (HRM) model.
Delphi survey and a questionnaire were used to 1) collect HR manager ideas and comments and 2) identify the main challenges of HRM. Then the results were discussed in an expert panel after being analyzed by content analysis method. Also, a deep focus study of recorded documents related to Health Human Resource Management was done. Then based on all achieved results, a rich picture was drawn to illustrate the right place of HRM in health sector. Finally, the authors revitalize the missed function of HRM within the health sector by drawing a holistic conceptual model.
The most percentage of frequency about HR belongs to “Lack of reliable HR information system” (91%) and the least percentage of frequency belongs to “Low responsibility of HR” (28%). The most percentage of frequency about HR manager belongs to “Inattention to HR managers as key managers and consider them in background” (80%) and the least percentage of frequency belongs to “Lack of coordination between universities’ policies” (30%). According to the conceptual framework, human resources employed in health system are viewed from two comprehensive approaches: instrumental approach and institutional.
Unlike the common belief that looks HRM through the supportive approach, it is discussed that HRM not only has an instrumental role, but also do have a driver role.
Human Resource; Management; Administration; Iran
Human resources (HR) are one of the most important components determining performance of public health system. The aim of this study was to assess adequacy of HR of local public health agencies to meet the needs emerging from health care reforms in Georgia.
We used the Human Resources for Health Action Framework, which includes six components: HR management, policy, finance, education, partnerships and leadership. The study employed: (a) quantitative methods: from September to November 2004, 30 randomly selected district Centers of Public Health (CPH) were surveyed through face-to-face interviews with the CPH director and one public health worker randomly selected from all professional staff; and (b) qualitative methods: in November 2004, Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were held among 3 groups: a) 12 district public health professionals, b) 11 directors of district public health centers, and c) 10 policy makers at central level.
There was an unequal distribution of public health workers across selected institutions, with lack of professionals in remote rural district centers and overstaffing in urban centers. Survey respondents disagreed or were uncertain that public health workers possess adequate skills and knowledge necessary for delivery of public health programs. FGDs shed additional light on the survey findings that there is no clear vision and plans on HR development. Limited budget, poor planning, and ignorance from the local government were mentioned as main reasons for inadequate staffing. FGD participants were concerned with lack of good training institutions and training programs, lack of adequate legislation for HR issues, and lack of necessary resources for HR development from the government.
After ten years of public health system reforms in Georgia, the public health workforce still has major problems such as irrational distribution and inadequate knowledge and skills. There is an urgent need for re-training and training programs and development of conducive policy environment with sufficient resources to address these problems and assure adequate functionality of public health programs.
Regulation of the pharmaceutical sector is a challenging task for most governments in the developing countries. In Tanzania, this task falls under the Food and Drugs Authority and the Pharmacy Council. In 2010, the Pharmacy Council spearheaded policy reforms in the pharmaceutical sector aimed at taking over the control of the regulation of the business of pharmacy from the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority. This study provides a critical analysis of these reforms.
The study employed a qualitative case-study design. Data was collected through in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and document reviews. Data was analyzed thematically using a policy triangle framework. The analysis was done manually.
The reforms adopted an incremental model of public policy-making and the process was characterized by lobbying for political support, negotiations and bargaining between the interest groups. These negotiations were largely centred on vested interests and not on the impact of the reforms on the efficiency of pharmaceutical regulations in the country. Stakeholders from the micro and meso levels were minimally involved in the policy reforms.
Recent pharmaceutical regulation reforms in Tanzania were overshadowed by vested interests, displacing a critical analysis of optimal policy options that have the potential to increase efficiency in the regulation of the business of pharmacy. Politics influenced decision-making at different levels of the reform process.
Tanzania; Pharmaceutical policy; Politics; Policy reforms; Policy actors; Pharmacy Act; Pharmacy Council; Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority
Science has a critical role to play in addressing humanity's most important challenges in the twenty-first century. However, the contemporary scientific enterprise has developed in ways that prevent it from reaching maximum effectiveness and detract from the appeal of a research career. To be effective, the methodological and culture reforms discussed in the accompanying essay must be accompanied by fundamental structural reforms that include a renewed vigorous societal investment in science and scientists.
In Bangladesh, widespread dissatisfaction with government health services did not improve during the Health and Population Sector Programme (HPSP) reforms from 1998-2003. A 2003 national household survey documented public and health service users' views and experience. Attitudes and behaviour of health workers are central to quality of health services. To investigate whether the views of health workers influenced the reforms, we surveyed local health workers and held evidence-based discussions with local service managers and professional bodies.
Some 1866 government health workers in facilities serving the household survey clusters completed a questionnaire about their views, experience, and problems as workers. Field teams discussed the findings from the household and health workers' surveys with local health service managers in five upazilas (administrative sub-districts) and with the Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) and Bangladesh Nurses Association (BNA).
Nearly one half of the health workers (45%) reported difficulties fulfilling their duties, especially doctors, women, and younger workers. They cited inadequate supplies and infrastructure, bad behaviour of patients, and administrative problems. Many, especially doctors (74%), considered they were badly treated as employees. Nearly all said lack of medicines in government facilities was due to inadequate supply, not improved during the HPSP. Two thirds of doctors and nurses complained of bad behaviour of patients. A quarter of respondents thought quality of service had improved as a result of the HPSP.
Local service managers and the BMA and BNA accepted patients had negative views and experiences, blaming inadequate resources, high patient loads, and patients' unrealistic expectations. They said doctors and nurses were demotivated by poor working conditions, unfair treatment, and lack of career progression; private and unqualified practitioners sought to please patients instead of giving medically appropriate care. The BMA considered it would be dangerous to attempt to train and register unqualified practitioners.
The continuing dissatisfaction of health workers may have undermined the effectiveness of the HPSP. Presenting the views of the public and service users to health managers helped to focus discussions about quality of services. It is important to involve health workers in health services reforms.
As the United States embarks on the most ambitious national health reform since the 1960s, this article highlights the challenges faced by behavioral health agencies, providers, and clients in rural areas and presents recommendations to improve access to and quality of services. Lessons learned from five years of research on a major systems-change initiative in New Mexico illuminate potential problem areas for rural agencies under national health reform, including insufficient financial resources, shortages of trained staff, particularly clinicians with advanced credentials, and delays in adopting the latest information technology. We recommend that rural states: (1) undertake careful planning for smooth transitions; (2) provide financial resources and technical assistance to expand rural safety-net services and capacity; (3) modify the health home model for the rural context; and (4) engage in ongoing evaluation, which can help ensure the early identification and rectification of unanticipated implementation issues.
Medicaid; rural health services; mental health; health reform; United States
In 2008, a patient died in the UK after being given an excessive dose of diamorphine by an overseas-trained doctor working in out-of-hours (OOH) primary care. This incident led to a debate on the recourse to international medical graduates and on the shortcomings of the OOH system. It is argued here that a historical reflection on the ways in which the NHS uses migrant labour can serve to reframe these discussions. The British Medical Association, the General Medical Council, and the House of Commons Health Committee have emphasised the need for more regulation of overseas graduates. Such arguments fit into a well-established pattern of dependency on and denigration of overseas graduates. They give insufficient weight to the multiple systemic failings identified in reports on OOH provision by the Department of Health and the Care Quality Commission. Medical migrants are often found in under-resourced and unpopular parts of healthcare systems, in the UK and elsewhere. Their presence provides an additional dimension to Julian Tudor Hart's inverse care law: the resources are fewer where the need is greatest, and the practitioner dealing with the consequences is more likely to be a migrant. The failings of the UK OOH system need to be understood in this context. Efforts to improve OOH care should be focused on controlling quality rather than the movement of doctors. A wider reflection on the nature of the roles that international medical graduates are asked to play in healthcare systems is also required.
medical history 20th cent; medical history 21st cent; medical staff; migrants; out-of-hours medical care; primary health care
To increase access and improve system quality and efficiency, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with sweeping changes to the nation’s health-care system. Although not intended to be specific to cancer, the act's implementation will profoundly impact cancer care. Its components will influence multiple levels of the health-care environment including states, communities, health-care organizations, and individuals seeking care. To illustrate these influences, two reforms are considered: 1) accountable care organizations and 2) insurance-based reforms to gather evidence about effectiveness. We discuss these reforms using three facets of multilevel interventions: 1) their intended and unintended consequences, 2) the importance of timing, and 3) their implications for cancer. The success of complex health reforms requires understanding the scientific basis and evidence for carrying out such multilevel interventions. Conversely and equally important, successful implementation of multilevel interventions depends on understanding the political setting and goals of health-care reform.
The NHS reforms have come to mean all things to all men (and women). Identifying a market oriented purchaser-provider split as the conceptual heart of the reforms is still, however, useful. There are important perverse incentives in and around the NHS that are associated with the reforms; furthermore, many reactions to the resulting problems are paradoxical and often counterproductive. Hitherto most criticism of the reforms from the health policy and management community (as opposed to the professions and the public) has been tactical rather than fundamental. There are serious problems for the NHS associated both with the NHS market and with current, often tacit, strategies for the future of the service.
In Finland, dental services are provided by a public (PDS) and a private sector. In the past, children, young adults and special needs groups were entitled to care and treatment from the public dental services (PDS). A major reform in 2001 – 2002 opened the PDS and extended subsidies for private dental services to all adults. It aimed to increase equity by improving adults' access to oral health care and reducing cost barriers. The aim of this study was to assess the impacts of the reform on the utilization of publicly funded and private dental services, numbers and distribution of personnel and costs in 2000 and in 2004, before and after the oral health care reform. An evaluation was made of how the health political goals of the reform: integrating oral health care into general health care, improving adults' access to care and lowering cost barriers had been fulfilled during the study period.
National registers were used as data sources for the study. Use of dental services, personnel resources and costs in 2000 (before the reform) and in 2004 (after the reform) were compared.
In 2000, when access to publicly subsidised dental services was restricted to those born in 1956 or later, every third adult used the PDS or subsidised private services. By 2004, when subsidies had been extended to the whole adult population, this increased to almost every second adult. The PDS reported having seen 118 076 more adult patients in 2004 than in 2000. The private sector had the same number of patients but 542 656 of them had not previously been entitled to partial reimbursement of fees.
The use of both public and subsidised private services increased most in big cities and urban municipalities where access to the PDS had been poor and the number of private practitioners was high. The PDS employed more dentists (6.5%) and the number of private practitioners fell by 6.9%. The total dental care expenditure (PDS plus private) increased by 21% during the study period. Private patients who had previously not been entitled to reimbursements seemed to gain most from the reform.
The results of this study indicate that implementation of a substantial reform, that changes the traditionally defined tasks of the public and private sectors in an established oral health care provision system, proceeds slowly, is expensive and probably requires more stringent steering than was the case in Finland 2001 – 2004. However, the equity and fairness of the oral health care provision system improved and access to services and cost-sharing improved slightly.
America's health care system is characterized by rising costs, increasing numbers of Americans who lack health insurance coverage, and poor quality of health care delivery. The convergence of these factors is adversely affecting not only the health of Americans but also the ability of businesses to compete successfully in a global marketplace. AARP and other nonprofit organizations are collaborating with the private sector to have more people covered by health insurance and to educate them to make behavioral choices that prevent chronic disease and ultimately lower costs.
Uganda implemented health sector reforms to make services more accessible to the population. An assessment of the likely impact of these reforms is important for informing policy. This paper describes the changes in utilization of health services that occurred among the poor and those in rural areas between 2002/3 and 2005/6 and associated factors.
Secondary data analysis was done using the socio-economic component of the Uganda National Household Surveys 2002/03 and 2005/06. The poor were identified from wealth quintiles constructed using an asset based index derived from Principal Components Analysis (PCA). The probability of choice of health care provider was assessed using multinomial logistic regression and multi-level statistical models.
The odds of not seeking care in 2005/6 were 1.79 times higher than in 2002/3 (OR = 1.79; 95% CI 1.65 - 1.94). The rural population experienced a 43% reduction in the risk of not seeking care because of poor geographical access (OR = 0.57; 95% CI 0.48 - 0.67). The risk of not seeking care due to high costs did not change significantly. Private for profit providers (PFP) were the major providers of services in 2002/3 and 2005/6. Using PFP as base category, respondents were more likely to have used private not for profit (PNFP) in 2005/6 than in 2002/3 (OR = 2.15; 95% CI 1.58 - 2.92), and also more likely to use public facilities in 2005/6 than 2002/3 (OR = 1.31; 95% CI 1.15 - 1.48). The most poor, females, rural residents, and those from elderly headed households were more likely to use public facilities relative to PFP.
Although overall utilization of public and PNFP services by rural and poor populations had increased, PFP remained the major source of care. The odds of not seeking care due to distance decreased in rural areas but cost continued to be an important barrier to seeking health services for residents from poor, rural, and elderly headed households. Policy makers should consider targeting subsidies to the poor and rural populations. Public private partnerships should be broadened to increase access to health services among the vulnerable.
The Government of the Republic of Kenya is in the process of implementing health care reforms. However, poor knowledge about costs of health care services is perceived as a major obstacle towards evidence-based, effective and efficient health care reforms. Against this background, the Ministry of Health of Kenya in cooperation with its development partners conducted a comprehensive costing exercise and subsequently developed the Kenya Health Sector Costing Model in order to fill this data gap.
Based on standard methodology of costing of health care services in developing countries, standard questionnaires and analyses were employed in 207 health care facilities representing different trustees (e.g. Government, Faith Based/Nongovernmental, private-for-profit organisations), levels of care and regions (urban, rural). In addition, a total of 1369 patients were randomly selected and asked about their demand-sided costs. A standard step-down costing methodology was applied to calculate the costs per service unit and per diagnosis of the financial year 2006/2007.
The total costs of essential health care services in Kenya were calculated as 690 million Euros or 18.65 Euro per capita. 54% were incurred by public sector facilities, 17% by Faith Based and other Nongovernmental facilities and 23% in the private sector. Some 6% of the total cost is due to the overall administration provided directly by the Ministry and its decentralised organs. Around 37% of this cost is absorbed by salaries and 22% by drugs and medical supplies. Generally, costs of lower levels of care are lower than of higher levels, but health centres are an exemption. They have higher costs per service unit than district hospitals.
The results of this study signify that the costs of health care services are quite high compared with the Kenyan domestic product, but a major share are fixed costs so that an increasing coverage does not necessarily increase the health care costs proportionally. Instead, productivity will rise in particular in under-utilized private health care institutions. The results of this study also show that private-for-profit health care facilities are not only the luxurious providers catering exclusively for the rich but also play an important role in the service provision for the poorer population. The study findings also demonstrated a high degree of cost variability across private providers, suggesting differences in quality and efficiencies.
In 2005, New Mexico implemented a unique reform in managed behavioral health services that seeks to ensure delivery of consumer-driven, recovery-oriented care to low-income individuals. Distinguishing features of the reform are the Local Collaboratives (LCs), regionally based community organizations designed by state government to represent behavioral health concerns of New Mexico's diverse cultural populations. We examine community response to the LCs, focusing on two broad sets of themes derived from 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork. The first set—structure and function—encompasses several issues: predominance of provider versus consumer voice; insufficient resources to support internal operations; imposition of state administrative demands; and perceived lack of state response to LC efforts. The second set—participation and collaboration—reveals how problems of information flow and other logistical factors impact involvement in LCs and how the construction of “community” introduced under this initiative exacerbates tensions across localities with varied histories and populations.
managed care; health care reform; community participation; United States; social inequity
In this paper, we use publicly available data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component (MEPS-IC) to investigate the effect of Massachusetts’ health reform plan on employer-sponsored insurance premiums. We tabulate premium growth for private-sector employers in Massachusetts and the United States as a whole for 2004 – 2008. We estimate the effect of the plan as the difference in premium growth between Massachusetts and the United States between 2006 and 2008—that is, before versus after the plan—over and above the difference in premium growth for 2004 to 2006. We find that health reform in Massachusetts increased single-coverage employer-sponsored insurance premiums by about 6 percent, or $262. Although our research design has important limitations, it does suggest that policy makers should be concerned about the consequences of health reform for the cost of private insurance.
This paper offers a wide ranging analysis of the drivers that resulted in scrutiny of medical, nursing, and healthcare professional roles. It suggests that what is needed is a coherent vision of the future shape of the health workforce. This requires moving beyond the presumption that reforming working practices primarily involves "delegating doctors" responsibilities to nurses. The paper argues that it is self evident that the implications of changes in healthcare roles and the ability of existing professionals to function effectively in the future will require education, training, and human resource investment supportive of the changes. It suggests a clear definition of competence and a national standard to practice is essential for nurses working in acute and acute critical settings. There should therefore be a correlation between levels of practice, levels of education, and remuneration. Furthermore, education programmes for senior nurses should sit coherently alongside the education programmes required by Modernising Medical Careers. Finally, the realisation of the government's service and modernisation agenda will require a culture change within higher education institutions, postgraduate deaneries, professional organisations, workforce development confederations, and NHS trusts.
Brazil and Colombia have pursued extensive reforms of their health care systems in the last couple of decades. The purported goals of such reforms were to improve access, increase efficiency and reduce health inequities. Notwithstanding their common goals, each country sought a very different pathway to achieve them. While Brazil attempted to reestablish a greater level of State control through a public national health system, Colombia embraced market competition under an employer-based social insurance scheme. This work thus aims to shed some light onto why they pursued divergent strategies and what that has meant in terms of health outcomes.
A critical review of the literature concerning equity frameworks, as well as the health care reforms in Brazil and Colombia was conducted. Then, the shortfall inequality values of crude mortality rate, infant mortality rate, under-five mortality rate, and life expectancy for the period 1960-2005 were calculated for both countries. Subsequently, bivariate and multivariate linear regression analyses were performed and controlled for possibly confounding factors.
When controlling for the underlying historical time trend, both countries appear to have experienced a deceleration of the pace of improvements in the years following the reforms, for all the variables analyzed. In the case of Colombia, some of the previous gains in under-five mortality rate and crude mortality rate were, in fact, reversed.
Neither reform seems to have had a decisive positive impact on the health outcomes analyzed for the defined time period of this research. This, in turn, may be a consequence of both internal characteristics of the respective reforms and external factors beyond the direct control of health reformers. Among the internal characteristics: underfunding, unbridled decentralization and inequitable access to care seem to have been the main constraints. Conversely, international economic adversities, high levels of rural and urban violence, along with entrenched income inequalities seem to have accounted for the highest burden among external factors.
Brazil; Colombia; health care reform; health care system; equity; health inequities; comparative analysis; health policy
Preparing long term reformatory plan for the health system, like other macro plans, requires guiding principles which is according to the values, and as a bridge, connect the ideals and values to the goals. This study was designed with the purpose of explaining the values and principles of health system, and as a pre-requisite to compilation of Iran’s health system reform plan at 2025.
The document of values and principles of health system reform plan for 2025 was developed by reviewing the literature and receiving the opinions of senior experts of health system, and was criticized in focus group discussion sessions of experts and decision makers.
The values of Iran are: dignity of human, the right to maximum attainable level of health, comprehensive health, equity and social cohesion. The principles of this health system include: institutionalizing the ethical values, responsiveness and accountability, equitable access (utilization), prevention and health promotion, community participation, inter-sectoral collaboration, integrated stewardship, benefit from innovation and desired technology, human resources promotion and excellence and harmony.
Based on the perception of cultural and religious teachings in Iran, protecting of human dignity and human prosperity are the ultimate social goal. In this sense, health and healthy humans, in its holistic concept (physical, mental, social health and spiritual) are the center and development in any form should lead to the human prosperity in a way that each of the individuals could enjoy the maximum attainable level of health in its holistic meaning and in a faire manner.
Health system; Value; Principle; Iran
In this article, we examine the financing mechanisms for graduate medical education (GME) in the United States. In so doing, we identify Medicare as the single largest contributor to GME and the most important barrier to producing a physician workforce that is appropriately sized, balanced, and skilled. Until passage of the 1997 Budget Reconciliation Agreement, the structure of Medicare payments promoted overproduction and skewed production toward training specialists in tertiary settings. We then examine the various reform proposals put forward by major health care organizations and policy bodies. These organizations generally agree on seven policy objectives: Remove incentives that promote expanded resident production; Base the GME subsidy on actual costs and distribute it more uniformly; Focus reductions on specialty residency positions; Provide GME payments for training provided in ambulatory, community, and managed care sites; Decouple Medicare GME reimbursement from payments to health maintenance organizations for patient care; Require all health insurers to contribute to GME; and Ensure that reductions in the GME subsidy do not reduce access to care for low-income persons. A myriad of different mechanisms for achieving these objectives have been recommended, many of which could be melded together to form a comprehensive approach to GME reform. The prospects for meaningful GME reform are dim in the absence of broader Medicare reform. The costs to stake-holders are too concentrated while the benefits to the public are too diffuse for GME reform to stand alone. But the political imperative to deal with the federal budget's short-term deficit and Medicare's long-term solvency will likely create an opportunity for GME reform. An addendum has been added that shows how the 1997 Budget Reconciliation Agreement addresses most of the major reform objectives identified but that several important issues remain unresolved.
It is widely recognized that the dramatic increase in health care costs in the United States has not led to a corresponding improvement in the health care experience of patients or the clinical outcomes of medical care. In no area of medicine is this more true than in the area of spine related disorders (SRDs). Costs of medical care for SRDs have skyrocketed in recent years. Despite this, there is no evidence of improvement in the quality of this care. In fact, disability related to SRDs is on the rise. We argue that one of the key solutions to this is for the health care system to have a group of practitioners who are trained to function as primary care practitioners for the spine. We explain the reasons we think a primary spine care practitioner would be beneficial to patients, the health care system and society, some of the obstacles that will need to be overcome in establishing a primary spine care specialty and the ways in which these obstacles can be overcome.
Low Back Pain; Neck Pain; Health Care Reform; Primary Care; Health Policy
Since 1960, numerous concepts of health-care reform have been submitted to the US Congress and the American public with different viewpoints and objectives. The priority for the US Congress to pass a bipartisan health-reform plan has been circumvented by the newly elected majority Republican Congress. Nevertheless, health-care cost containment, quality control, and health-care delivery concepts have been implemented gradually into the concept of competitive managerial health care. A few of the serious problems in the African-American community are the efficiency and quality of the health-care delivery system and the effects of managed care on African-American primary physicians and surgical specialists. The critical shortages of this group, especially the latter, may create a dilemma in the implementation of a quality surgical care delivery system. The Association of American Medical Colleges, the American College of Surgeons, and other affiliating organizations should become sensitized to the African-American community's health needs, deficiencies, and the rational institution of an equitable, efficient, comprehensive, and quality health-care plan coupled with a sustained and increasing supply of certified, diversified, and experienced African-American surgical manpower in company with family practice physicians and primary care physicians.