Debating the best path to better health care

    Doctors, hospital administrators and other medical experts are coming to Philadelphia to discuss better ways of delivering health care.

    The Population Health and Care Coordination Colloquium will kick off Sunday with a roundtable of medical writers

    The experts have examined some innovations — and shortcomings — of the health care system.

    Delaware County author Glenn Ellis, who writes about health literacy and patient advocacy, this month is telling the story of blacks and health care in Philadelphia.

    He says that history begins with African captives who cared for the sick and dying during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793.

    Ellis tracks the city’s first African-American-controlled hospitals and efforts to give black doctors and nurses places to train.

    Mercy Hospital and School for Nurses opened at 17th and Fitzwater streets in 1907.

    “The nurses from Mercy were known to wear a certain little style of cap, with a little fold in it. So, that was a sign of relief and comfort when a black patient went into a white health-care organization,” Ellis said.

    Ellis says today’s health system hasn’t advanced far enough. It’s fallen short, he says, particularly concerning health inequities, the shortage of African-American medical workers and lingering mistrust.

    “You have heard people say: ‘I don’t trust doctors or I don’t like to take doctor medicine,’ or people who don’t even go. And they’ll give all kinds of reasons. It’s a disconnect that has never fully been addressed,” he said.

    Other experts will examine the new federal health law, hospital safety, ways to get patients to change their health habits, and care quality benchmarks.

    Many are enthusiastic about one primary-care innovation called the patient-centered medical home, but disease-management consultant Al Lewis is not convinced.

    “In a nutshell, doctors are paid extra to see their patients more promptly and to follow them more intensively. It’s a terrific concept, I myself am a patient in a medical home and I love being able to go see the doctor for, frankly, things I don’t need to see the doctor for,” Lewis said. “The jury is extremely still out on them, and you should not assume they are going to save money.”.

    Lewis analyzed a medical home program for Medicaid patients in North Carolina and he’s skeptical of claims that it was a success. He will present that work Sunday afternoon.

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