My journey with Aspire Indiana Health has been a humbling one. When we started the planning process for the Health Center, I knew that we would improve lives. I knew that we would reduce overall healthcare costs. I knew that health outcomes would improve. I knew that we would make a difference. I knew these things because of the research… integrated health care is a better product than the traditional, stand-alone primary care model. Everyone in the industry knows this. It’s not a secret. The dilemma has always been, and still is, “How do you pay for it?”
What I didn’t know, what I didn’t even expect, was that we would save lives. After all, we have only been operational for a few months. How big of a difference could we make in such a short period of time? I’ve personally been focused on the administrative requirements of setting up the corporation. Because of that, I’ve spent the majority of my time with lawyers and consultants, methodically working through contracts and coordinating efforts with community partners.
Creating anything new has its rewards. But, as you can imagine, talking with consultants and insurance agents is not the highlight of my week. The most rewarding part of my week is attending the weekly steering committee meeting. This committee is tasked with getting the daily operations of the Health Center up and running. During those weekly meetings the team reviews processes, and tweaks them or creates them from scratch. The goal is always, “How do we coordinate care across our very complex health care system.”
Because the steering committee focuses on the internal systems that drive our clinical care, they sometimes review specific cases. As I listened to those case reviews I was shocked. We have literally saved lives. If we had not done what we did when we did it, these people – some of whom were children – would still be risking their lives, or in some cases may already be dead. One patient’s story in particular stands out in my memory. A young child being seen by a psychiatrist. The doctor thought the symptoms were out of place for such a young person and used the Health Center to rule out a physical problem. In our initial assessment we discovered a very serious issue requiring immediate surgery. We literally saved this child’s life. I remember talking with Syd Ehmke, COO for the Health Center, and telling her I was surprised by the severity of some of the cases. She looked at me, amazed. “Why are you so surprised? Of course we’re saving lives. That’s what this program is designed to do.”
The realization of this “newly acknowledged” responsibility hit me hard. After all, if we are aware of something as significant as a life or death issue, don’t we have an obligation to do something? Knowing that you want to make a difference but not having the resources can feel defeating. That’s why I’m so proud to be part of Aspire, an agency dedicated to achieving that goal.