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Robert Ingram Shares Solutions to Rising Health Care Costs

April 07, 2008

Category: Business & Economics, Events


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Bob Ingram

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"Sound Solutions to Rising Health Care Costs" was the topic of Robert Ingram's speech at the inaugural Distinguished CEO Lecture Series held Tuesday, April 1 in the Peeler Crystal Lounge of the Robertson College-Community Center on campus.
 
Ingram is a national leader in health care and is currently serving as Vice Chairman Pharmaceuticals for GlaxoSmithKline. He also chairs the GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Board of Directors and the national CEO Roundtable on Cancer, Chairman of the American Cancer Society Foundation, and member of the National Cancer Advisory Board.

Ingram set the tone for his remarks by explaining the nation's current health care system was more of a sick care system than a health care system.    

The Need for a Better Health Care System
Audio(mp3 - 168K)
"I would say that what I'd like to share with you in the next few minutes is addressing what we need to do as country together about creating and sustaining a better health care system, but more importantly a better health care outcome for all of us — for me, for you, for my grandchildren."

"Let's face it we do have a health care cost challenge. We're spending about 16 to 17 percent of our GDP (gross domestic product) on health care and the sad truth is that there isn't universal access to quality care. You'll have a lot of people citing different people to fault for that including our industry for the price of medicine."

He emphasized the impact that chronic diseases have on spending and the nation's current health care system.

Chronic Diseases Driving Up Health Care Costs
Audio(mp3 - 410K)
"The real honest truth is that we don't have a health care system; we have a sick care system. And that's not a play on words, that's a fact, because what's driving costs in our country is that we have now almost half of our country, including every woman, man and child, who has one or more chronic diseases and we don't start spending on you until you get sick. Forty five percent of Americans are living with one or more chronic diseases and the older we get the higher that percentage goes up. "

"That 45 percent accounts for 75% of the now almost $2.4 trillion we spend on health care and in 2007 terms, that now averages almost $7,200 per person living in the U.S. and that is an astonishing number and that is just what we spend on treatment."
"In fact right here in North Carolina, the economic impact of chronic diseases including both treatment and lost productivity according to the Milliken Institute was $40 billion in 2003 and you know it's gone up from that standpoint and their next numbers will be published next year."

"So, if almost half of our population has at least one chronic disease and three out of every four dollars we spend on health care is spent treating those chronic diseases, perhaps we should be looking at preventing and better managing those chronic diseases when talk about better management of health care"

Ingram encouraged those in the audience to consider three themes or focuses that every individual and institution should attend to in order to reform the current health care system:   prevention, intervention and innovation.

In less than 20 years, he said, the national obesity epidemic has grown to affect a large percentage of the population. It is a preventable epidemic, he noted.

The National Obesity Epidemic
Audio(mp3 - 357K)
"As you know, obesity brings with it a variety of concomitant diseases — hypertension, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, respiratory problems, just to name the most frequent, but it also brings type 2 diabetes and type 2 diabetes is now truly an epidemic in our country. Eating a more healthy diet and getting more exercise would help all of us lead a healthier life but it would also prevent the more expensive onset of disease. So I would submit, and you're hearing this from someone who has spent his career working in the pharmaceutical industry, that the first thing we should advocate for as our industry is to invest in keeping you well and if we could keep more people well, you wouldn't need as much of the medicine that today we consume."

He spoke of how he and other CEOs from the pharmaceutical and medical businesses came together to form a CEO Roundtable on preventing cancer, at the behest of former President George H. Bush. That Roundtable reviewed the health benefits of employees in its various businesses as these related to prevention and cancer detection and found that these benefits were lacking. In response, they implemented five different healthcare principles in their respective businesses which focused on prevention and cancer detection. These principles included:   1) elimination of tobacco use; 2) diet and nutrition; 3) physical activity; 4) screening and early detection; 5) access to quality treatment and clinical tests. While implementing these principles came at a cost, they also had a cost reduction benefit, Ingram said. Those businesses which implemented all of the principles achieved the CEO Gold Standard.

Prevention, Intervention and Innovation
Audio(mp3 - 168K)
"In closing, it's really these three messages," Ingram said "  —   it's prevention, focusing on the quality of care; and initiating workplace programs whether you be a private academic institution or whether you be a multi-national corporation  — it's the right thing to do for the employees we're privileged to lead  — and intervening and innovation."
 
While on campus at Catawba, Ingram spoke to several classes in the Ketner School of Business, met with the Teaching Scholars at Catawba, toured the Center for the Environment, and spoke at the induction ceremony for Kappa Delta Pi.


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