News 4/7/2022

Authority Magazine: Kim Buckey of DirectPath: Five Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System

There needs to be more acknowledgment of the importance of behavioral health and its impact on physical/general health. They shouldn’t be treated separately any more than preventive care should be treated independently. This also needs to be reflected in our wellness initiatives. Mental health should be included as a component of wellness programs.

Asa part of our interview series called “5 Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System”, I had the pleasure to interview Kim Buckey.

Kim is DirectPaths’ key advisor and senior subject matter expert on new and evolving compliance issues that affect employers as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Kim, who founded the DirectPath compliance communications team, works closely with sales, marketing and product development to explore the potential impact on customer segments, and develop new products and services to support current and anticipated needs. Kim has more than 40 years of communications experience, 35 of which focus on the delivery of compliance communications for health/welfare and qualified (savings/pensions) plans. She provides strategy, review and analysis, content development and management services for employer customers, and is a vocal advocate for health and health insurance literacy.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into our interview, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Iwas always interested in writing and making the complicated, simple. While my initial college major was broadcasting and film, I soon realized I preferred the journalism and PR path — as there was more focus on writing. I was fortunate to land writing positions for my first couple of jobs out of school and to apply my writing skills to the technical world of employee benefits.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was responsible for producing the annual report for my employer’s nonprofit foundation. All went smoothly, and I had received advance copies to share with the board of directors when, to my horror, I realized the company’s name was misspelled by ONE letter. I had to tell my boss and get very creative “fixing” the board’s copies before we could get them reprinted. To this day…30 years later…my former boss emails me at least once a year to tease me about that. Lesson learned: proofread, proofread, proofread — and make sure you have someone else proofread it as well!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Take responsibility for your mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up. No one is going to die because of your error. (Obviously, I’m neither a surgeon nor an air traffic controller!)

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

Someone who actively listens to your concerns; gets to know you and your personal situation; explains their thought processes and rationale behind their recommendations for tests, treatments, and medications; and is at least open to discussing alternatives.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

Two books in particular really resonated with me — An American Sickness (by Elisabeth Rosenthal) and Being Mortal (by Atul Gawande). The first really infuriated me and spurred me to do whatever I could to improve healthcare and health insurance literacy. The second brought home the importance of empathy and perspective in this crazy industry.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?

Obviously, number one is the cost of care in this country

(2) The shortage of providers: both specialists, which leads to longer wait times (six months or more is not unheard of), and general practitioners, especially in rural and low-income areas.

(3) Poor healthcare literacy. Consumers don’t understand the healthcare system; what they are responsible for; and what options they have to change things

As a “healthcare insider,” if you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

Improve healthcare literacy among patients.

Doing a better job of educating consumers about why — and how — to shop for health care products and services.

Push for PCPs/preventive care.

Make it easier and more convenient for consumers to access care when they need it. (People go to the emergency room at night and on weekends because there aren’t more options available).

What concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?

Consumers can make it their business to learn — ideally from benefits experts — how health plans work and what their role is as a consumer. If you are employed, read the benefits materials your employer provides at enrollment and throughout the year. Make use of resources your employer offers — whether in person, virtually, or online. Additionally, employers need to step up their benefit communications efforts to educate on the basic terms and concepts and keep the information flowing year-round. Lastly, communities can take steps to offer educational programs, either through local community programs, area hospitals, healthcare facilities, or school systems.

How do you think we can address the problem of physician shortages?

Reduce physician stress levels by expanding the capabilities & responsibilities of physician assistants and nurses, and shifting from a per-capita pay model to a quality care model. Both would free up physicians to spend more time with their patients, which would lead to better outcomes for patients, and enable physicians to truly deliver care to their patients. This might make the profession more appealing overall. Physician burnout has been a leading cause of shortages, especially since COVID arrived. We also need to address the cost of medical school, which discourages many potential providers. Scholarships, tuition reimbursement or assistance programs and loan forgiveness programs are important first steps.

How do you think we can address the issue of physician diversity?

Reduce the cost of medical school, perhaps by covering the cost of education for those who commit to returning to underserved areas. This could also help attract low-income students, improving economic (and, too often, minority) representation. Partnering with HBCUs to encourage medical school participation, and mentorship programs may also help.

I’m interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now, we have two parallel tracks, mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?

There needs to be more acknowledgment of the importance of behavioral health and its impact on physical/general health. They shouldn’t be treated separately any more than preventive care should be treated independently. This also needs to be reflected in our wellness initiatives. Mental health should be included as a component of wellness programs.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Begin teaching healthcare and health insurance literacy at the high school level. Require similar training to new residents in the U.S. We should all be well-versed in choosing a health plan, choosing a provider, shopping for care and prescriptions, and making smart healthcare decisions before signing up for our coverage.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on Twitter: @SPDKim

Read the article here

Read the series here.

(Luke Kervin is a contributing reporter to Authority Magazine)

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