Aetna’s new chief medical officer looks at the future of health care
Harold L. Paz, M.D, M.S. was named executive vice president and chief medical officer at Aetna. Here, he provides insights into how past experiences in a changing, complex health care system can help shape future improvements.
Q. What lessons from the past are shaping the future of health care?
A. Collaboration is more effective than consolidation. I saw the potential of collaboration in the mid-1990s, but it has taken a while for the idea to be embraced widely. When I was dean of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Group in Brunswick, New Jersey, we partnered with primary care physician practices and initiated a hospital network strategy that included 34 hospital affiliates and 11 major ambulatory care sites with full-time faculty members practicing as far as 70 miles from the main campus. The reorganized departmental faculty practice became the largest multispecialty group practice in the state.
At Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Health System and Penn State University College of Medicine, building a new model of health care delivery supported by connectivity and collaboration led to a growing network of 18 affiliated hospitals across central Pennsylvania. Similarly the Penn State Hershey Medical Group was established and now has more than 1,100 clinicians at 64 ambulatory care centers, imaging and surgery facilities across Pennsylvania.
Q. If collaboration is key, how can groups that have not naturally worked together become aligned?
A. Every player must be involved to effectively improve the health care system. Hospitals, health systems, doctors, patients, lawmakers, regulators, employers, employees and health care benefits companies are all part of the solutions that will ultimately create more access to affordable care. We have seen that collaboration works. More will be required to build a sustainable health care system that gives patients affordable access to care. The key to bringing groups together is defining a vision that inspires the collective team. Creating higher quality, safer care that is more accessible and affordable is a goal shared by many. More importantly it is essential for our nation’s continued health and growth.
Q. What can consumers expect in a better health care system?
A. Health care systems must focus on patient experiences. Health care delivery must become more efficient while encouraging more effective care and engagement from patients. The health care system should help people be their healthiest. For many reasons, patients – consumers — have often been recipients of care rather than active partners. As the system evolves, consumers will experience more collaborative relationships with their health care providers and their health benefit plans. People will have more access to high-value support throughout the health care system, at all stages of health, throughout their lives.