"If we do not fix our healthcare system, America may go the way of GM; paying more, getting less, and going broke," President Obama declared earlier this week. "Make no mistake: the cost of our healthcare is a threat to our economy," he said. "It is a ticking time bomb for the federal budget. And it is unsustainable for the United States of America."
If the administration is keen on likening the healthcare system to General Motors, maybe the two share the same solution. The administration entrusted a former telecommunications honcho to lead the new GM's turnaround: Former AT&T CEO and Chairman Ed Whitacre, who is famous for building the AT&T that we know today by engineering a roll-up of various wireless and telecom companies (remember Cingular?) into one mega-brand.
Critics panned the Whitacre appointment at GM, especially since he admitted that he knew nothing about the automobile industry. Time will tell whether Whitacre can apply his telecom savvy to the flailing automaker's business, but the U.S. healthcare system bears little resemblance to a singular, bankrupt company. The similarities appear superficial.
So despite Obama's comparison to GM, the U.S healthcare system doesn't need an Ed Whitacre -- a telecommunications guru -- to lead it. There is no magic bullet here and the administration seems to recognize that. A range of solutions needs to be explored, as Obama noted recently: That's why the federal government needs to be made aware of how the wireless industry could improve the healthcare system and drive better outcomes.
Next week, administration officials, members of Congress, medical and policy experts are scheduled to convene in the Capitol Visitor Center at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. to discuss "mHealth solutions to America's chronic care crisis." The wireless industry association CTIA is organizing the event, which is set to take place on the morning of June 24. (More information here.)
"We need to explore a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first, let doctors focus on practicing medicine, and encourage broader use of evidence-based guidelines," Obama said. "That's how we can scale back the excessive defensive medicine reinforcing our current system of more treatment rather than better care."