"The ability to remain competitive in business tomorrow depends on the success of several types of education initiatives today, from understanding multicultural diversity and improving worker skills to buying the best type of medical care. That message served as the underlying theme for the American Management Association's 63rd Annual Human Resources Conference and Exposition held last April in New Orleans.
Titled "HR 2000: The Future Is Now," the conference attracted more than 1,400 human resources professionals from across the country. Participants were offered a selection of more than 80 concurrent sessions related to human resources management, from healthcare cost containment and employment law to training strategies and professional development. In addition, more than 150 exhibitors were on hand to display and answer questions regarding a wide array of products and services of interest to human resources professionals.
AMA CEO and President David Fagiano summed up the conference at the closing session by noting that all three keynote speakers emphasized education as the key to solving today's business problems. Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General, spoke on the need for better patient education to help end America's healthcare crisis. Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., talked about different types of seminars, training programs and workshops offered by the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Inc. in Atlanta, which she rounded to help build better interracial relations. William Brock, former Secretary of Labor and senator from Tennessee, addressed the conference on the issue of worker skills and efforts underway to improve public education and establish work-related curricula.
Koop Talks Tough
"Warning: America's healthcare system could be hazardous to our health," Dr. Koop told the hundreds of HR professionals who artended his opening keynote address. "There is no panacea, no single solution, but there are some very hard choices to be made." (See story on page 20.)
Some of those choices have to start with changing the American public's perceptions, Koop said. Americans want it all: immediate access to healthcare, top-quality care and a low price tag. But Koop declared, "Our high expectations are outrunning our ability to pay for them."
Koop, who presently oversees the C. Everett Koop Institute of Health and Science, said he wants to reform today's "nonsystem" to make healthcare available to every American. Right now, some 12 percent to 15 percent of Americans are uninsured.
But it's not much better for those who have insurance. Koop stated that insured Americans are being held hostage either by their insurance companies or their employers, since changing either one could spell trouble by jeopardizing coverage.
Koop also placed blame for today's healthcare crisis on several other factors: the medical community, government inaction, third-party administrators, and the inability of Medicare and Medicaid to provide adequate care and coverage.
In regards to the medical community, Koop targeted current medical training. "We have to turn out a different kind of doctor than we do today," he said. "Medical schools are not happy with the type of doctors being produced, and students are not happy with the type of education they are receiving."
Koop noted that he would like to see more physicians enter family medicine.
Healthcare administrators also were cited for helping to fuel the nation's healthcare crisis. "Doctors spend more time on paperwork than they do on the patient," Koop said. "They also practice very expensive defensive medicine." Overall, he added, the American public will not accept any solutions to healthcare reform that do not address waste and greed.
So what can be done to heal our nation's ailing healthcare …