Maybe it’s attributable to the recent presidential election, but the topic of healthcare reform seems to be at the forefront of many discussions. Most healthcare discussions tend to revolve around access to care, quality of care and the ever-rising costs to deliver superior patient care. This last point— rising costs— has become a primary focus of our industry that is both concerning and perplexing.

It is concerning for obvious reasons: rising costs create additional concern for healthcare providers, like HCA, whose payments are decreasing as payers seek to rein in management expenses. What’s perplexing is that this increase in costs does not appear to be related to a measurable increase in the quality of, or access to, care. While we might all agree that increased expenditures to ensure better patient care may be supportable, in most cases increased spending has not yet resulted in improved effectiveness of care delivered. What everyone — patients, physicians, insurers, employers — is looking for is cost-effective care.

A key factor impeding cost-effective care is the variability in care delivered to patients who essentially have the same diagnosis. Variability in care lessens the likelihood of consistent results and creates waste. As an industry, healthcare must improve the consistency in the services we provide, while acknowledging each person we care for is an individual with their own unique healthcare needs.

Clinical Excellence is HCA’s approach to reduce clinical variation, and was created to enhance consistency of care delivery, improve patient outcomes and experience, and reduce waste across our system. A founding principle of Clinical Excellence is the acknowledgement that we are acutely aware of our clinical performance and deeply committed to make improvements where needed.

A core strength of HCA has always been our commitment to performance excellence, and we will continue to leverage that asset while also making it more measurement and goal oriented around clinical care. Of course, this involves changes that will not always be easy to make. But when excellence is the desired outcome, experience has taught us the effort is so worthwhile. It’s what has made our company great.

Since formally launching Clinical Excellence in late 2011, we’ve focused on achieving consistency in the way care is delivered within our culture of accountability. We’re engaging physicians and hospital teams in new ways to measure and manage clinical performance. I invite you to read all about it on pages 6-7.

This is an exciting and challenging time in healthcare as, yet again, change is afoot. We wouldn’t be America’s leading healthcare company if we were reluctant to welcome and embrace change. I look forward to working with everyone to help HCA lead change in our industry, creating the standard for providing safe, high quality, cost-effective, efficient, patient-centered care.

I hope you and yours have an excellent holiday season.