BCN joins Hospice of Michigan to bring ‘Ernie’ the play to Grand Rapids

Residents of West Michigan will get a chance to see the hit play “Ernie,” celebrating the life of legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, when it makes a two-week run in September as a special fundraiser at the Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids.

The play, by noted sportswriter, radio host and bestselling author Mitch Albom, will run for 12 performances Sept. 12-23. Proceeds benefit Hospice of Michigan’s Open Access Program, which provides care to people living with a terminal illness and need help, regardless of age, diagnosis or ability to pay.

Blue Care Network is signing on as presenting sponsor for the play as it makes its West Michigan debut, continuing the Blues’ long-running support for the play. “Ernie” made its world debut at Detroit’s City Theater in June 2011 and is currently enjoying an encore presentation that wraps up July 29, with BCBSM once again as presenting sponsor.

The play features audio and video of many famous Harwell calls and historic Tigers games, plus insight into Harwell’s personality and rich personal life gleaned by Albom over the years he got to know the man known affectionately as the “Voice of Summer.”

After he retired from broadcasting, Harwell served as a walking advocate and spokesman for the Blues. He died in 2010 at age 92.

For more information about the play, visit Mitch Albom’s website, or read the news release. Ticket information will be available at Hospice of Michigan’s website.

Success of Michigan hospital partnerships lands on New York Times front page

A recent front page story in The New York Times about nationwide efforts to trim hospital costs highlights news coverage of BCBSM’s efforts to improve patient safety and health care quality through its partnerships with Michigan hospitals.

In April, the Blues announced that four of its Collaborative Quality Initiatives with Michigan hospitals saved $232.8 million over three years.

Here’s a roundup of stories that take a deep dive into the news:

New York Times: In Michigan, for example, Blue Cross financed an effort to have the state’s major hospitals compare results in areas like bariatric or general surgery so that they could reduce infection rates and surgical complications. The insurer never sees data that identifies individual hospitals, and the hospitals meet regularly to discuss how they can learn from one another to improve care.

“There’s basically a ‘leave your guns at the door’ attitude,” said Dr. Darrell Campbell, the chief medical officer for the University of Michigan Health System.

The program’s benefits extend far beyond Blue Cross’s own customers, according to the insurer’s calculations. Only a third of the savings was attributable to patients it insured. Unlike previous attempts by insurers to reward individual hospitals for quality and efficiency, the program tries to help all hospitals improve.

The earlier efforts, which focused on overly specific measures or reporting on individual hospitals, “tended to inspire providers to do the least necessary to achieve the incentive rather than the most to transform care,” said Dr. David Share, a senior executive at Blue Cross.

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Blues CEO Daniel J. Loepp on Detroit: ‘Best I’ve seen in probably 30 years’

Blues President and CEO Daniel J. Loepp is attending the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference this week on Mackinac Island, where he stopped in for an interview with MiVote.org and journalist Christy McDonald.

In the video interview, Loepp discusses revitalization and business investment in the city of Detroit, the upcoming completion of BCBSM’s move of 3,000 suburban employees into the city, the street lighting initiative undertaken with the city and the Downtown Detroit Partnership, and the impact of national health care reform.

Take a look here.

CHRT Study on Variation in Treatment of Heart Disease in Michigan Yields Coverage in National News Media

A new study from the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, a nonprofit partnership between BCBSM and the University of Michigan Health System, that finds wide variation in how providers treat coronary artery disease in different parts of the state has gained attention from the national news media.

The study, Variation in Interventional Cardiac Care in Michigan, focused on treatment methods for stable, non-emergency coronary disease — specifically, the rates of bypass surgery and angioplasty (stents) among patients with BCBSM insurance. It found that while overall rates for the two procedures dropped 19 percent between 1997 and 2008, regional variation rose considerably.

The findings raise concerns about the appropriate use of these high-risk, high-cost procedures in elective, non life-threatening situations when treatments like medication, diet or exercise may be more appropriate.

Here’s a roundup of news coverage:

This is a pretty common story in American medicine right now: A 2008 Congressional Budget Office report estimated that new technologies account for about half of the growth in health care costs. And some do indeed make us healthier: The rise of minimally invasive surgical equipment, for example, has cut the health risks and recovery time for undergoing surgery.

But some may just make healthcare more expensive — without delivering better health outcomes. And that’s not just true for catheterization labs: Another study this year looked at how this happens with prostate cancer treatments. Doctors with access to pricier proton therapies tend to use it more, even though its outcomes have proven no better than less-expensive radiation treatments. (Washington Post)

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Daniel J. Loepp Op-Ed in Detroit News Celebrates Success of Michigan Hospital Partnerships

Daniel J. Loepp

Initiatives under way across Michigan that benefit from Blue Cross’ support are receiving national recognition for their success in slowing health care costs, BCBSM President and Chief Executive Daniel J. Loepp writes in a recent Detroit News opinion piece.

In the op-ed, “Michigan sets example for saving health care costs,” Loepp discusses how four BCBSM-led Collaborative Quality Initiatives saved $232.8 million by improving clinical quality and patient safety. He also touches on the Blues’ support for the Keystone Center for Patient Safety and Quality, a voluntary program run by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association that has helped improve health care and lower costs.

Loepp writes:

The programs that Blue Cross has under way with doctors involve the voluntary participation of often competing hospitals or physician groups and a willingness to share and compare data around common medical procedures.

This level of collaboration is unprecedented in Michigan health care.

With help from the University of Michigan Health System and Beaumont Hospitals, we’ve been able to determine best-practice protocols for procedures like bariatric surgery, breast cancer treatment and angioplasty.

By having everyone work together, we can determine what’s working and what isn’t, giving huge systemwide boosts to patient safety and clinical quality while lowering costs.

Read the rest of Loepp’s commentary here.

BluesWeek: Blues to Celebrate Achievements of Health Care Quality Partnerships

Blue Cross and a number of partnering health care providers will unveil new data reflecting significant achievements in four statewide Collaborative Quality Initiatives Tuesday, April 17 in Detroit. Health care reporters are invited to attend the event, which will highlight new progress made in efforts to improve patient safety and clinical quality while lowering costs in Michigan.

The Blues will be well represented at a Health Policy Symposium Friday, April 13 in Ann Arbor. Tom Simmer, the Blues’ senior vice president and chief medical officer, will appear on a policy panel, while Dr. David Share, vice president, Value Partnerships, will moderate another. The symposium, sponsored by the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, will explore ways to bridge the gap between health care research and policy.

Staff members at A Healthier Michigan are hard at work narrowing the field of entries for the “Make the Play for Healthy Habits” kid video contest. Readers can vote for their favorite finalists for two weeks starting April 13 on the blog. The winner, to be announced in early May, gets a school assembly with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an opportunity to be a featured guest blogger.

In Case You Missed It

A federal court in Detroit has dismissed a lawsuit against the Blues by the city of Pontiac that alleged the insurer harmed competition by striking discounts with Michigan hospitals. Pontiac last year joined litigation by the U.S. Department of Justice taking aim at the discounts, which Blue Cross negotiates with hospitals in an effort to maintain access to quality health care and hold down costs.

Rate increases continued to moderate for small employer groups in Michigan during the fiscal third quarter of 2012. BCBSM announced a statewide average increase of 7 percent, compared with an average 12 percent increase over each of the last two years, a reflection of efforts to introduce more cost-effective products, promote wellness and partner with providers to improve the quality of health care. Blue Care Network’s average rate increase for small groups fell below 7 percent.

Blue Cross registered dietitian Grace Derocha, a blogger on A Healthier Michigan, stopped by the WJBK Fox 2 News studios to share her portion control props and talk about how to “Give Green a Chance” in your diet. Watch her segment with morning host Deena Centofanti here.

The Healthier Michigan Radio Show for April took a look at the how walking can improve your health. Host Ann Thomas interviewed guests Jodi Davis, BCBSM’s walking advocate and blogger, and Blues health coach and blogger Angela Jenkins. The episode is available for listening online or as a podcast.

BluesWeek is a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy tidbits under way at BCBSM

Photo by UMHealthSystem

BluesWeek: Employees Begin Relocating to RenCen Tower 600 in Detroit

The Blues have begun moving employees into renovated offices in Tower 600 of the GM Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. The first 281 employees moved into newly renovated offices in Tower 600 earlier this week, and another 306 will arrive Monday from Southfield. Blue Cross’ downtown Detroit campus will have more than 6,000 employees when the final moves wrap up this summer.

The submission period for the “Make the Play for Healthy Habits” kid video contest is now closed, with dozens of entries submitted from across the state. Readers can vote for their favorite finalists for two weeks starting April 11 on A Healthier Michigan. The winner, to be announced in early May, gets a school assembly with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an opportunity to be a featured guest blogger.

Grace Derocha, a blogger on A Healthier Michigan and Blue Cross registered dietitian, takes her portion-control suitcase to the airwaves Friday to talk serving sizes and how to “live green” with fruits and vegetables. She touts health benefits including reduced blood pressure, weight loss and maintenance and more on Fox 2 News Friday during the 10 a.m. hour.

The April installment of The Healthier Michigan Radio Show examines the simple yet effective health benefits of walking. Host Ann Thomas interviews guests Jodi Davis, BCBSM’s walking advocate and blogger, and Blues health coach and blogger Angela Jenkins. The episode airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 on both WJR-AM and WJIM-AM in Lansing. It’s also available for listening online or as a podcast.

In Case You Missed It…

BCBSM is sponsoring an encore season of “Ernie” the play May 3 through July 28 at City Theater in Detroit. Written by media personality Mitch Albom, the play celebrates the life of legendary former Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who also served as a health and fitness advocate for the Blues.

BluesWeek is a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy tidbits under way at BCBSM.

Photo by tukanuk

BluesWeek: 2012 Blues’ Community Challenge Kicks Off in Grand Rapids With Body & Soul

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is teaming with the American Cancer Society to kick off the 2012 Blues’ Community Challenge Saturday, March 17 in Grand Rapids with Body & Soul. The Body & Soul challenge engages the African-American faith community in a 10-week wellness and nutrition initiative, with the winning churches to receive financial grants to support health ministry programs.

BCBSM awarded nearly $10,000 worth of wellness grants to the nine Lansing-area municipalities that participated in the Winter Warm-Up and Blues Community Challenge. There was a huge jump in the number of resident participants this year, with nearly 2,400 participants logging a record 208,862 miles during the eight-week walking and physical activity competition. Watch for a news release to go out Thursday.

National Nutrition Month collides with St. Patrick’s Day as the color green takes over. But instead of green beer, registered dietitian Grace Derocha will be offering tips on how to incorporate the color green for good health in your St. Patrick’s food on A Healthier Michigan and through media availabilities.

It may seem like spring has sprung early in Michigan, but there are Polar Plunge events taking place Saturday, March 17 in Kalamazoo and Marquette benefiting Special Olympics Michigan. Blue Cross is sponsoring Special Olympics Michigan’s Healthy Athletes Program.

In case you missed it…

As part of Patient Safety Awareness Week, A Healthier Michigan offered a pair of printable reminder cards to help prevent avoidable medication errors. The cards fit easily into any billfold and offer tips for what to ask a doctor who prescribes medications as well as a place to jot down which medications you’re currently taking.

The deadline is approaching for the “Make the Play for Healthy Habits” kid video contest on A Healthier Michigan. Children in grades 4 through 8 can submit a video showing how they would make Michigan healthier through March 25. The public gets to vote on the final 10 contestants to choose the lucky winner. The winning student will receive  a school assembly visit from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an opportunity to guest blog on A Healthier Michigan.

BluesWeek is a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy tidbits under way at BCBSM.

Photo by New Orleans Lady

BluesWeek: Helping Health Care Consumers Benefit from Patient Safety Awareness Week

Starting today, we’ll be publishing BluesWeek, a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy items, here on Blues Perspectives. It previously was an email advisory sent mostly to news media.

March 4-10 is Patient Safety Awareness Week, and the Blues will be spotlighting the issue with a series of blog posts featuring helpful tips and other resources for patients. Watch for posts here and on A Healthier Michigan on topics like things health care consumers can do to stay safe.

BCBSM is offering tips for how to “Get Your Plate in Shape” and make good food choices during National Nutrition Month. Registered dietitian Grace Derocha has simple suggestions available to help take the complexity out of nutrition. Occasional blog posts exploring the theme will also appear on A Healthier Michigan.

The Blues Community Challenge wraps up Saturday, March 10 in Lansing. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will award grants to the nine participating Lansing-area communities to support public health and wellness. The ceremony takes place at 9 a.m. at the Lansing Mall and includes health screenings, health and wellness displays, a celebratory walk through the mall and more.

There are two more Polar Plunge events taking place March 17 — one in Kalamazoo and another in Marquette. Participants jump into frigid waters to benefit Special Olympics Michigan. Blue Cross is encouraging employees and others to participate as part of a yearlong sponsorship of Special Olympics Michigan’s Healthy Athletes Program.

In case you missed it…

The March installment of the Healthier Michigan Radio Show takes an in-depth look at efforts to transform health care in Michigan. Joining host Ann Thomas were Dr. Jean Malouin, co-chair of the Michigan Primary Care Transformation project; Dr. Gina Buccalo, chief medical officer at St. John Providence Partners in Care; Dr. Kim Coleman, a Bloomfield Hills pediatrician who is part of the Blues’ Patient-Centered Medical Home program; and Marianne Udow, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation. You can still catch the show Sunday, March 11 at 9 p.m. on WOOD-AM in Grand Rapids, or download a podcast version or listen online here.

There are just a few short weeks remaining in the “Make the Play for Healthy Habits” kid video contest on A Healthier Michigan. Children in grades 4 through 8 have through March 25 to upload a video that creatively demonstrates their ideas to make Michigan healthier. The public will have the opportunity to vote on the final 10 contestants, and the winner gets a school assembly visit from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an opportunity to guest blog on A Healthier Michigan.

Photo by UMHealthSystem

Blue Care Network’s Growing Upper Peninsula Network Offers More Ways to Get Healthy, Save Money

Blue Care Network has expanded its provider and hospital network to Houghton County, making it the third county in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where residents can select from the Healthy Blue LivingSM suite of wellness-based HMO plans.

BCN is offering its Healthy Blue Living and Healthy Blue Living RewardsSM plans to groups enrolling at least 50 members.

Group customers that sponsor either of the two products have saved an average of 5 to 7 percent on premiums compared to other PPO products. More than 70 percent of members of the HBL are living healthy and have earned enhanced benefits, where they save most on premiums.

Healthy Blue Living, which is celebrating its fifth year of helping members get healthier, offers lower health care costs to members in exchange for committing to work toward key heath targets, such as Body Mass Index and blood pressure readings.

Similarly, Healthy Blue Living Rewards is an outcomes-based HMO that offers lower insurance costs when members achieve improved health results.

The expansion into Houghton County adds 11 primary care physicians, 84 specialists and Portage Health Hospital in Houghton to BCN’s growing U.P. network. BCN is now accepted in Mackinac, Marquette and Houghton counties.

BCN officially expanded its provider network in to the U.P. Oct. 1, 2011 with the addition of Marquette County. (Mackinac County had previously been included as part of the HMO’s West and Northern Michigan network.) The company hopes to further expand its Upper Peninsula network in 2012.

For more information, visit MiBCN.com or read the news release. You can also view a map of BCN’s service area.

Photo by pcfishhk