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An entrepreneurial look at health-care reform

Patients in the U.S. health-care system are lost like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” said Evan Falchuk, president and chief operating officer of Best Doctors.

The global organization provides an employee health benefit that helps patients make medical decisions with aid from medical experts.

“Navigating through the health-care system is like going down the yellow brick road,” he told some 60 members of the Northeastern community last week, as part of a series of presentations on health-care reform. “Spending only 15 minutes with your doctor is the same as being with the scarecrow.”

The event, held in Northeastern’s Alumni Center, was part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, a showcase for Northeastern’s entrepreneurial focus. The Bouvé College of Health Sciences and Health Science Entrepreneurs, an alumni group dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship in the rapidly evolving world of health care, sponsored the evening.

Falchuk called the current health-care system “misguided,” citing limited access, short visits with doctors and poor quality of care. Fifteen to 20 percent of patients receive incorrect diagnoses, he said, and 30 cents of every dollar spent on health care pays for medical treatments that are unnecessary, ineffective or harmful.

“Our biggest obstacle to good care is the amount of time doctors and nurses spend with patients,” said Falchuk, a proponent of concierge medicine—or direct care—in which the patient pays an annual fee to see his or her doctor.

He favors a “comprehensive care setting,” in which patients know their medical history, have access to all of their medical records and are knowledgeable enough to ask appropriate questions about their health.

“How do we do that?” he said.

Panelist Donald Dempsey, senior vice president of the Marwood Group, a health-care advisory and financial services firm, gave a comprehensive overview of health- care reform law.

More than $500 billion will be spent on health care over the next 10 years, he said. By 2019, 95 percent of the population will have health insurance.

“Health-care providers support reform because health-care spending will go up over the next decade,” he said. “Money is going to be flowing to hospitals and physician companies.”

The political landscape, more than anything else, could shape the future of health care in the United States, said Dempsey.

If a Republican is elected president in 2012, he said, the new health-care law “may be gutted.”

Panelist Karen Nelson, senior vice president of clinical affairs for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said new technology, such as wireless sensing and communication devices for the human heart, is becoming more important to patients, physicians and nurses.

As for health care-related applications, such as web-based support groups and graphic lab results, “the sky’s the limit,” she said.

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