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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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.

Quality Improvement Projects in Michigan Helping Bend the Health Care Cost Curve

If you are concerned about what’s going on with the escalating cost of health care in this country, you should feel good about the work going on right here in Michigan.

Four programs BCBSM sponsors with Michigan hospitals have saved a combined $232.8 million over three years, lowering complication rates for Michigan patients and literally saving lives.

The Collaborative Quality Initiatives, as we call them, target health care quality, patient safety and improved outcomes. They cover some of the most commonly performed and costly areas of medical care: general surgery, cardiac and thoracic surgery, angioplasty, and bariatric surgery.

Widespread Benefits

The savings benefit more than just people who carry Blue Cross insurance. About two-thirds of the savings was spread across patients with Medicare, Medicaid or non-BCBSM private insurance and the uninsured.

We started these initiatives in 1997 when we joined five hospitals to study variation in angioplasty procedures and treatment. The initiative resulted in drastically fewer emergency bypass surgeries and other complications and saved $15.2 million in an early analysis (this program saw the largest savings — $102 million — from 2008 through 2010).

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BluesWeek: Michigan Supreme Court Order Allows Continued Growth For Accident Fund

The Accident Fund headquarters in Lansing.

On April 6, the Michigan Supreme Court ended an appeal filed by former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox in a lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The Supreme Court’s order affirms decisions of the Circuit Court and Court of Appeals that Accident Fund Holdings — a for-profit, workers compensation company and wholly-owned subsidiary of BCBSM — may own and operate its own subsidiary insurance companies, including those based outside the state of Michigan.

The Value of Accident Fund

This outcome is important to BCBSM. Blues’ ownership of Accident Fund returns significant long-term value to Blues’ health insurance ratepayers. BCBSM uses profits generated by Accident Fund to offset revenue that otherwise would have to be generated by health insurance lines of business.

Accident Fund also generates significant contributions for the state’s economy, and Lansing’s growing reputation as a national hub for insurance companies. Accident Fund is the 10th-largest workers compensation insurer in the nation, and owning subsidiaries based in other states allows the company to compete and grow its business outside Michigan. Accident Fund is headquartered in Lansing, where it employs 617 people, and last year opened a new national headquarters in a restored power plant in the heart of the city’s downtown. This new headquarters allowed BCBSM to bring hundreds of its own suburban Lansing workers into downtown Lansing to occupy Accident Fund’s former headquarters building. Accident Fund’s headquarters was constructed for growth, and it plans to remain and increase its workforce in mid-Michigan as it continues to grow its national customer base.

A separate count in the lawsuit regarding the ability of BCBSM to make capital contributions to Accident Fund is still pending in the Circuit Court, after being remanded from the Court of Appeals. We are confident the Circuit Court will follow the previous decision of the Commissioner of Insurance and rule in BCBSM’s favor, that the transfer of capital to Accident Fund from BCBSM was lawful.

If you have any questions about this ruling, please contact our newsroom at 313-549-9884.

Upcoming Event Reminder

Blue Cross and several partnering health care providers will make a major announcement about four statewide Collaborative Quality Initiatives on Tuesday, April 17 at the Blues’ Bricktown Auditorium in Detroit. The media is invited and encouraged to attend. The CQI program enlists hospitals and other providers across Michigan in comprehensive efforts to improve patient safety and clinical quality while reining in health care costs.

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

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: 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

To Stay Safe as a Patient, Make ‘Be Aware for Safe Care’ Your Mantra

Patient safety is a serious issue in the United States. Experts estimate that as many as 98,000 people die in the U.S. every year due to medical errors. That’s more than die from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. So it’s important to understand what you can do to stay safe when receiving care.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is committed to being part of the solution. The Michigan Health and Hospital Association’s Keystone Center for Patient Safety and Quality — supported by BCBSM — has become a national leader in efforts to improve communication, reduce errors and prevent complications. In fact, BCBSM is in the midst of its second $6 million investment to help fund the Keystone Center initiatives, while providing incentives to hospitals to encourage participation.

BCBSM also sponsors 12 Collaborative Quality Initiatives with hospitals across the state that have reduced many types of hospital-associated infections, including ventilator-associated pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and urinary tract infections associated with indwelling catheters.

Each day, health care professionals are working together in hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and physician’s offices across Michigan. This collaborative strength focuses on creating a consistent process of care that reduces errors, prevents complications, and improves outcomes and has made Michigan a leading state in performance improvement.

However, there is still much work to be done, and patient safety as an issue can’t be something we think about only during Patient Safety Awareness Week, the National Patient Safety Foundation’s annual campaign to raise awareness.

“The foundation’s primary theme for this year is ‘Be aware for safe care,’” said S. George Kipa, M.D., BCBSM’s deputy corporate medical director. “This reinforces the concept that all stakeholders need to be aware of and take part in the ongoing collaborative efforts for improved patient safety.”

The focus on patient safety is an outgrowth of the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report, To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System

What can you do to keep you and your loved ones safe?

The National Patient Safety Foundation offers good tips through its Ask Me 3 program. By understanding the answers to three simple questions, patients are less likely to make mistakes when taking prescription drugs, preparing for a medical procedure or managing a chronic condition:

  1. What is my main health problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

You can also check out this brochure on medication safety.

Photo by UMHealthSystem

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

Action Plan Unveiled in Washington D.C. to Promote Partnerships in Health Care Quality, Cost Savings

The "Building Tomorrow's Healthcare System" plan from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association calls for inspiring healthier living, among other recommendations.

Blues CEO Daniel J. Loepp traveled to Washington D.C. last week to join Scott Serota of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association in announcing a comprehensive action plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system by improving quality and reining in costs.

Loepp was on hand to help Scott Serota, CEO of the BCBSA, unveil “Building Tomorrow’s Healthcare System: The Pathway to High-Quality, Affordable Care in America,” a four-pronged approach to building tomorrow’s health care system based on efforts to contain costs and improve quality where BCBSM is already making measurable progress.

The “Pathway” plan focuses on rewarding quality and safety while taking on rising health care costs. It advocates for a public-private partnership in four areas:

  • Rewarding safety
  • Doing what works and focusing on quality outcomes, instead of paying for expensive services that may be ineffective or redundant
  • Reinforcing front-line primary care
  • Inspiring Americans to live healthy and make better choices

Loepp, who is also chairman of the BCBSA board of directors, told the media about the Keystone Center for Patient Safety and Quality, BCBSM’s widely recognized partnership with the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. He also shared some of the early achievements of the Patient-Centered Medical Home program, the largest in the country.

“We are helping to create a culture of patient safety in Michigan,” Loepp said. “We know our efforts are saving money and creating more consistent application of best practices, but more importantly, these efforts are leading to better outcomes and ultimately saving lives.”

If adopted, the recommendations would save $319 billion over the next decade, according to a study by Ken Thorpe, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

For more information, read the BCBSA news release, or read the Pathway action plan.

BCBSA is the parent organization of the 39 independent, locally based Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, including the Michigan Blues.

Photo by Christiana Care.