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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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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