Strengthening Christ-centered care in new era of health care delivery

July 1, 2011

2011-2012 chairperson,
CHA's board of trustees
Retired president and chief executive
Catholic Health East, Newtown Square, Pa.

Words cannot express how honored I am to serve as the 2011-2012 chairperson of the Catholic Health Association. I can only hope and pray that I can serve each of you, and the entire ministry, well and in a manner consistent with the extraordinary expression of compassionate care it represents. I ask for your prayers and support so that together we can carry forth our mission of Christ-centered care to those in need, especially the poor and most vulnerable.

T. S. Elliot said: "To make an end is to make a beginning, as the end is simply where we start from."

This is certainly a momentous time as we stand at the beginning of a new era in health care delivery.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in the spring of 2010, represents the single most important piece of federal legislation passed in essentially 50 years since the enactment of Medicare. It also marks the culmination of countless hours of literally thousands of persons associated with the Catholic health ministry over many decades who advocated for access for the poor, for person-centered care and for a model that emphasized quality of care and optimized outcomes, all within a system that was financed fairly. The enactment of this legislation is a testament to the vision and leadership of many before us who never lost sight of who we are, and what we stand for, as Catholic health care providers.

But the end of this chapter in our history marks the beginning of another. Just as our religious congregations were pioneers in the beginning of the church's healing ministry in North America in the early 1700s, we are called to be pioneers in the beginning of a new health delivery model in the 21st century.

We enter this era with a plan and renewed vigor as we shape the future of our Catholic health care ministry. Vision 2020, CHA's vision for the coming decade, sets forth our path; and our objectives are clear as we endeavor to create a health care model that assures that all persons are treated equitably, holistically, and with dignity, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Our commitment to the individual person forms the framework of our ministry and the foundation for Vision 2020. Just as Jesus laid hands on individuals to heal them, we must continue to advocate for a care model that ends the emphasis around institutions and providers, and begins to revolve around the needs of the individual person at all stages of life, from conception to natural death.

The Affordable Care Act marks the end of a delivery model that rewards and emphasizes the treatment of disease, and the beginning of a model that is oriented toward health and prevention of disease. This provides a start, but there is much to be accomplished if we are to achieve the overall goal of enhancing the health status of the broader community, particularly related to a societal and cultural recognition of the value of preventive care.

Over the next eight years, the Affordable Care Act is intended to provide access and funding for health care services to more than 90 percent of all Americans, including 32 million who are currently uninsured. While this represents the end of access issues for so many of those who are poor, many others will continue to "fall through the cracks." We must begin our enhanced vigilance for instances of inequitable access and provide a voice for the voiceless poor. Of particular note is the undocumented immigrant population, clearly a segment of our population that must be beneficiaries of our tradition of a preferred option for the poor.

The new legislation also marks the end of a delivery system that rewards quantity and the beginning of one that rewards quality. An August 2010 study released by Thomson Reuters found that Catholic health system facilities provided significantly higher quality than secular not-for-profit health care systems and for-profit providers. This study also recognized our strong ability to align our quality goals with our mission imperative. Building upon this strong foundation, we must advocate for the expanded use of information technology as a meaningful and measurable tool for improving quality and outcomes, and as a means to enhance population health and the individual patient-centric experience.

Thirty years ago, the Commission on Catholic Health Care Ministry outlined the critical role of lay leadership to the future of the ministry in its document "Catholic Health Ministry: A New Vision for a New Century." Since that time, the development and administration of leadership formation programs has been nothing short of extraordinary. We must now begin to further enhance these programs through the development of core curriculum, faculty and competencies. For it is through achieving the 1980s-era vision of creative, committed leadership that we can continue to be an integral guiding component of the new delivery model that is emerging.

While we come to the end of one era in the history of health care, we begin yet another. There is much to be accomplished, and the work will be difficult. We will continue to be challenged at a judicial and legislative level. It will require us to adapt and be inventive. It will require us to change, both as an association and as providers. It will require us to take risks. It will require us to collaborate with others, both Catholic and other than Catholic, in ways we never imagined. It will require us as church — all aspects and segments of church — to be truly together and to speak with one unified voice. Most importantly, it will require us to put our faith in God ... the only true Alpha and Omega ... the one true beginning and end ... as we continue to strengthen the healing ministry of Jesus.


Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.