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The Economics of Health

Q&A with Congressman Brian Higgins

After hearing from Dr. Elad Levy about the Global Vascular Institute’s potential medical and economic impact and the cost of the project, Artvoice decided to look for corroboration of his optimism from one of our congressional representatives. We contacted congressman Brian Higgins for a brief interview.

AV: A recent interview with Dr. Elad Levy of UB Neurosurgery suggests that the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus could be termed a “game changer” for Buffalo. Is this true?

BH: Absolutely. What is emerging in Buffalo is an integration of academics, physicians and researchers on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which is producing a commercial spin-off and creating a lot of high end employment at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The four hundred million dollar Global Vascular Institute is a major addition to that, bringing in young doctors who are dynamic and committed to the growth of the Medical Campus with the Global Vascular Institute. We already have over eighty-five hundred people that work in the Buffalo Niagara Medical campus, many of those employees and prospective employees want to live and spend their leisure time in downtown Buffalo, which is good for the local economy. The Medical Campus should gradually and fundamentally be changing the dynamic of downtown Buffalo from a place where people come in and out of to work and then go back to suburban areas, to a place where people work and then walk to their homes and patronize nearby restaurants and shops.

The New Yorker writer, scholar and practicing surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande, said that the solution to health care quality and efficiency will not come from Washington, it will come from an outlier community that has the presence of mind to embrace new tools and changes available and demonstrate to the rest of the nation how health care should be done. Buffalo is well positioned to be that outlier community by evidence of the great vision of Buffalo’s healthcare leadership two decades ago in establishing the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, again, which is the integration of academics, researchers and physicians collaborating towards innovation, new technology and more efficient ways to deliver healthcare.

There are other elements, as well, which position Buffalo high in advancing health care. Computer Task Group is a Buffalo company that has pursued twelve national contracts for electronic medical records which will power in the new era of healthcare delivery. They pursued twelve contracts to do electronic medical records in many states, including a comprehensive program in the state of Texas. They won all twelve contracts and reported a thirty-seven percent increase in profits in the first quarter; and they are projecting double digit growth in the next decade because they are highly invested in health care. That would mean an expanding work force in healthcare information technology.

Buffalo and Western New York’s healthcare community was invited to Washington by the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services because they’ve demonstrated already that they have the ability to bend the cost curve to contain the growth in healthcare costs. Mercy Hospital, the busiest emergency room in all of Western New York just opened a new state of the art, paperless, thirty-two million dollar emergency room, which will allow physicians to instantaneously access patient records. The wait times are shorter, the delivery time is quicker and the quality is much better.

And so when you look across the Western New York healthcare landscape, Buffalo is very well positioned to demonstrate to the rest of the nation how healthcare is delivered in the twenty-first century. Cancer research, keep in mind, was happening right here in Buffalo before it was happening anywhere else in the nation with groundbreaking work at Roswell Park. Groundbreaking work at Roswell Park. So we have a historical precedence in demonstrating new innovations and new technology in a more efficient, effective healthcare delivery system.”

—Interview for Artvoice by J.M.

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