Health careI have worked my entire career to make a difference in the lives of kids. I can’t help but get choked up when I think how the incredible team of professionals at Eugene Pediatric Associates is reaching beyond the walls of our clinic to help kids in a way I never anticipated. This week, I was offered the opportunity to share the good things happening here in our community on a broader stage.

I was invited to speak at Governor Kitzhaber’s “Third Annual Coordinated Care Model Summit: Inspiring Health System Innovation.” The Oregon Convention Center in Portland was teeming with over 1,300 people, passionately interested in improving the delivery of health care in America.

The U.S. spends more money on health care than any nation in the world, and yet our life expectancy is not longer, nor is our health improved by this huge investment. We spend a vast amount of money on sickness and addressing broken lives, instead of preventing pain and illness.

Oregon has been one of the national leaders in developing new concepts in health care, so the Governor’s summit is a highly anticipated event. In attendance, alongside Gov. John Kitzhaber, were notable guests who included Dr. Don Berwick, former Chief of Medicare and Medicaid and CEO of the visionary Institute for Healthcare Improvement, as well as officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority.

My presentation encapsulated the early successes of Eugene Pediatric Associates, as we integrate care for the physical health and behavioral/mental health of children at a single location. I talked about how our seven medical providers are now working alongside child psychologists and pediatric psychiatric specialists, with the help of an experienced case manager. I explained how we share workspaces, use a unified electronic health record, meet regularly to discuss patients and develop our work flows, and offer help and support as we pass each other in the hallways. I explained how all of that results in better care for children and families.

Ours was one of four projects featured as part of the Governor’s summit. The other three were also compelling, and included a Portland program that is reaching out to seriously mentally ill adults on the streets. Another was a county with a novel collaboration of schools and their public health department. An Eastern Oregon CCO also shared their work on building community support. Each of these projects is meant to achieve the “triple aim” of health care reform to deliver better care to more people for less money.

As I shared examples of children who I have already seen benefit, I struggled to keep my emotion from reaching my voice as I told a particularly touching story of a child who is already being helped by the people at our integrated medical/behavioral care clinic. It is unique to our state, one of only a handful of similar projects in pediatric clinics across the country, and it is now serving as a model for others who care for kids.

As always, I said a prayer of deep gratitude for the opportunity I’ve been given to serve children and families.

The closing remarks at this week’s summit came from Susan Johnson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Oregon is leading the nation in health care reform,” she said. “You are a beacon for the rest of us who are watching you to see what works. Onward!”

This is what inspires me to keep us moving forward.