Berwick: You have my attention, heart, commitment

Two days before Don Berwick, MD, was reappointed by the White House to lead the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, he told National Rural Health Association Rural Health Policy Institute attendees he was committed to serving rural America.

“You have my attention; you have my heart; and you have my commitment,” he told 400 rural health advocates gathered in D.C. for the 22nd annual event that connects policymakers with rural professionals. “Rural health is the core in some ways, and I look forward to working with you closely. I hope you’ll be direct and generous with your comments.”

The Harvard professor and pediatrician said health care policy has to start with the patient.

“Meeting patient need, to me that’s true north,” Berwick said.

He told the story of Kevin, a 15-year-old who had been in and out of his hospital. Berwick asked him how he could make his hospital stay better, and the boy wrote down three things:

1. Please tell me what you’re going to do before you do it.

2. Please talk to each other.

3. Please ask me what I think.

“Kevin designed health care here. It’s pure gold,” he said. “He’s not a guest in your hospital. We are guests in Kevin’s life. Our job is to meet needs. That’s the nature of quality and nothing else.”

When it comes to improving patient safety, he said urban hospitals can learn from NRHA members.

“Some of the big breakthroughs I’ve seen have been at small hospitals,” Berwick said. “You can improve care faster than your urban counterparts. I know because I’ve seen it.”

He said he’s operating CMS with “unconditional teamwork.”

“My resources are your resources. If we don’t share, we both lose,” Berwick said.

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