Ross Brooks

By Ross Brooks, Chief Executive Officer

Mountain Family Health Centers was fortunate to receive passes to the Aspen Institute’s Spotlight Health in June. Seeing Dr. Atul Gawande, interviewed by PBS’s Judy Woodruff, was the pinnacle of health care “nerdom” for me. Dr. Gawande was recently named the CEO of a health care initiative for Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan’s 1.2 million workers.

Dr. Gawande set a very wise, and practical, path forward for health care centered around the Triple Aim of improving health outcomes, improving the patient experience, and reasonably controlling health care costs. Dr. Gawande’s vision is very similar to Mountain Family’s strategic vision for the future.

Dr. Atul Gawande. Photo courtesy Dan Bayer /The Aspen Institute via Flickr

A few of my favorite ideas and quotes from Dr. Gawande:

  1. While the path to universal health care coverage may have many roads (Medicare for all, Medicaid buy-in, Single Payer, Canadian system, the English system were all shared as possible paths), Dr. Gawande appeared to prefer a system driven primarily by non-profit interests. On several occasions he came back to the fundamental value of having non-profit interests ensure health care for life. When pressed on whom should be interested in achieving universal health coverage in the U.S. (the room was full of the who’s who of American healthcare), Dr. Gawande simply said, “Anyone who cares about the well-being of other human beings.
  2. When asked about the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and work requirements for Medicaid, Dr. Gawande articulated a shift from Medicaid being a social “safety net” program that provides intermittent coverage to being a reliable source of coverage guaranteed for life for low-income families so that those families can have continuous coverage and well-coordinated care for life. This approach helps save unnecessary long-term spending (unnecessary hospital ER visits, unnecessary surgery, excessive pharmacy costs), reasonably controls chronic disease (which all humans tend to accumulate over the course of life), and helps families access affordable preventative primary care.
  3. All parts of the health care system blame each other for the current conundrum (hospitals are dissatisfied with payers, payers are dissatisfied with providers, providers are dissatisfied with the government, and so the blame game goes), yet there are real, meaningful, and definable gains in local communities in the U.S. and across the globe. Dr. Gawande’s writings on the values of incremental, local, human based care have been very influential to me and many others. You can read some of his musings here.

One example of Mountain Family’s approach to local, incremental, human-based care delivery can be seen in the Rocky Mountain Health Plans PRIME program, with which Mountain Family has partnered since 2014. PRIME incentivizes integrated physical and behavioral health care delivery in rural Western Colorado, while providing rewards for population health improvement and total health care expenditure savings. I’m pleased to be a part of the MFHC team that has shown real results in improving health while controlling healthcare costs for the communities we serve. For more on PRIME’s local impact, click here.

Ross Brooks
CEO, Mountain Family Health Centers
Glenwood Springs, CO