Wednesday, November 3, 2010

5 Questions with John Torinu, author of “The Company That Solved Health Care”

How did this book come about?

The book came to life through the experiences of taming run-away costs of health care at my company, Serigraph Inc. We simply couldn't afford the hyper-inflation any more, not if we wanted to keep offering a full package of benefits to our co-workers. So, I asked them to help me manage health and health costs in innovative ways. They responded and we have tamed the beast. I thought the rest of the country should know about what's possible with grassroots reforms. Hence, the book.

What was the most intriguing chapter to write?

I think the most mind-opening experience was to see what "lean" health care providers can offer. They are taking the errors out of medicine and mountains of wasted time and resources, Most hospitals and clinics are grossly under-managed, almost pandemoniums of redundant and unnecessary activities. `Their intentions are the best, but the inefficiencies are staggering. Lean disciplines, similar to those that have greatly improved quality and lowered cost in manufacturing, tackle those inefficiencies. Theda Care in Appleton, for example, has eliminated millions in dollars in waste and has immensely improved quality. Believe it or not, its people have eliminated infections in its operating rooms. We give incentives to our co-workers to use that "center of value." The chapter on "lean" providers reports that prices there are 30-40% below those we pay elsewhere.

What's the main message you'd like readers to walk away with?

I would like readers to come away with the understanding that good management and innovation can reform healthy care economics. It's not going to happen with top-down mandates. It is going to happen from the bottom up, when every American takes responsibility for his or her health and spending on medical treatments.

What's the future like of health care in America?

The performance of America's health care system on the medical side is often sensational. Many cancers, for instance, have become treatable instead of fatal. My titanium hip with a ceramic coating allows me to cross-country ski in marathon competitions. Amazing. And that progress will continue. But the economic side of U.S. medicine is a disaster. The soaring costs are bankrupting companies, governments at all levels and individuals. But private sector reforms prove that costs can be controlled with proper behaviors. Those reforms will be adopted across the land, because they will have to be. The financial pain is so great that such costs reforms are inevitable.

QWhat projects are you working on next?

Our next goal at Serigraph is to get every one of our diabetics under control, as measured by three blood tests. Diabetes is a nasty disease with ugly consequences, and it very expensive to treat. Our on-site doctors, nurses and dietician are intensively coaching each diabetic and pre-diabetic employee to follow necessary regimens. It's working. We have cut our out-of-control diabetic numbers sharply. We won't be satisfied until they are all in control. We are attacking other chronic diseases in similar fashion. Some 80% of U.S. health care costs stem from the chronic diseases. Of late, we have made huge progress on obesity, which, of course, ties back to diabetes. A group of 60 employees has lost more than 800 pounds of weight over the last year .

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