Checking Up on Hawai‘i’s Health Care

Sep 25, 2015

Queen's Medical Center.
Credit Wikipedia

Healthcare in Hawai‘i is a complex and changing business. It’s also very personal—and interviews with a cross-section of healthcare executives produced a variety of information. Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier has more.

Executives we spoke to represented major hospitals, such as Straub and Queens, community clinics and the health insurance industry. Here are just a few of the takeaways from a wide-ranging conversation.

The federal government influences local health care in profound ways. Short-term, expect Hawai‘i’s leaders to try to balance the benefits of our pre-paid health care act with the requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act. In the long-term, Hawai‘i’s faces as much as $838 million in cuts to Medicare reimbursements over the next 15 years. This will have to be made up somehow.

The health care industry is moving from a “fee-for-service” model to a “fee-for-quality” model. This, too, is pushed along by the Affordable Care Act. Electronic medical records are seen as essential to improving care. But there’s a challenge. According to the executives we spoke with, there are 16 different types of electronic medical records systems in use in Hawai‘i. And large numbers of patients treated in emergency rooms have no records at all.

Hawai‘i’s doctor shortage continues to be a challenge. Even a system as large as Queen’s is short on oncologists and cardiologists. But consider yourself lucky if you’re a Honolulu resident, the shortage remains particularly acute on the neighbor islands. Experts are looking into better team care and streamlined referral systems to help take the pressure off of these underserved communities.