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Carolyn Caldwell touts strategies for bending cost curve

February 22, 2013

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he Class of 2015 profiles the women and men who joined the AHA board this year.

AHA board member Carolyn Caldwell says hospitals and health systems must bend the cost curve as they transition to a payment system that rewards quality instead of quantity.

“That is a very difficult transition to make, and the AHA has to help our members navigate through that process,” says Caldwell, who is the CEO of Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, CA. The 387-bed hospital is part of Tenet Healthcare Corporation.

Caldwell says the strategies contained in the AHA board’s latest report, “Ensuring a Healthier Tomorrow,” offer a roadmap for changing the way care is delivered
and for slowing health care spending. (See pages 4-5 for more coverage of the report.) Desert Regional Medical Center serves a diverse patient population in California’s Coachella Valley region, including a large Latino population. Given the community she serves, Caldwell cites the importance of the AHA report’s strategies on promoting population health, revamping care for vulnerable populations and engaging individuals in their health and health care as critical components to improving the quality and efficiency of care.

“When patients come to our hospitals, they often are dealing with a lot of economic, community and social issues that are contributing to their illness,” says Caldwell. “I’m very excited that there is a focus on the social needs of individuals and the need for hospitals to work collaboratively with other organizations.”

One example of the hospital’s collaboration is its partnership with the William J. Clinton Foundation, which was established by the former president to “strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence,” including health care security.

Desert Regional Medical Center is working with the foundation’s
Clinton Health Matters Initiative. The initiative seeks to advance community health by closing gaps in health disparities and focusing efforts in underserved areas, including Coachella Valley. The hospital, along with Tenet Healthcare Corporation, for the second straight year were major sponsors of the foundation’s second annual “Health Matters: Activating Wellness in Every Generation” conference held in January.

“A lot of people typically look at Palm Springs and think that people here don’t have any issues – everyone is fit, healthy and wealthy – and that’s just not true,” Caldwell says. “This partnership and conference have put Coachella Valley’s health disparities on the table so that people can see the
Valley is plagued with some of the same issues as a lot of major urban and even some suburban areas.”

Caldwell became president and CEO of Desert Regional Medical Center last October, after serving as president and CEO of Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, MO. She served on AHA’s Regional Policy Board 6, and also was the 2011 chair of the board of directors of the AHA-affiliate Institute for Diversity in Health Management.

“I think the time I spent working with the Institute for Diversity in Health Management will help me be able to lend my voice to the AHA board as we talk about eliminating disparities and tying diversity into that conversation,” she says.

By Pete Davis