California’s health care system is fragile. Now in the third year of responding to a global pandemic of unprecedented proportions, many hospitals are on the brink – 45% are operating every day with negative margins and another 15% are barely above break-even.
It will take cooperation and partnerships to rebuild California’s fractured health care system, as hospitals, doctors’ offices, diagnostic centers, clinics, urgent care centers, and more must increasingly rely on one another to survive so they can continue to provide comprehensive health care that meets all Californians’ needs.
Integrated health systems – which have a long and proud history of saving lives, preserving access to care, and lowering costs for Californians – is one such path toward ensuring that care will always be there when it’s needed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, integrated systems proved invaluable as hospitals were struggling with scarce resources, like personal protective equipment, medical devices like ventilators, physical space to house patients, and staff to treat them. Systems, by nature of their structure, were able to rapidly transfer resources among facilities as needed and were able to accept patients from hotspots that were overwhelmed by the virus.
The model offered by integrated health systems – one way to protect access to high-quality care – has many other benefits. It enables people to avoid redundant tests, receive care closer to home, access specialized services such as organ transplants and trauma care, and benefit from advanced clinical expertise. It also ensures that struggling hospitals can remain open, access resources necessary to comply with costly regulations, pay for new technology that improves patient safety and the quality of care, and support outreach programs that keep people healthy and active.