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Improving Healthcare Quality, Costs, and Outcomes in Washington State

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Naysayers who can’t see how healthcare is going to move from a fee-for-service to an outcome and value-based model should look at the work being done by organizations like the Institute for Healthcare Innovation, the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Choosing Wisely program, and The Bree Collaborative.

Last week, I attended a meeting of the Dr. Robert Bree Collaborative, an initiative in Washington State spearheaded by Governor Christine Gregoire in 2011 and named in memory of a physician who focused on cutting back use of inappropriate medical imaging in the state. The goal of the collaborative is:

“…to provide a mechanism through which public and private health care stakeholders can work together to improve quality, health outcomes, and cost effectiveness of care in Washington State.”

Dr. Robert Bree CollaborativeMembers represent some of the top healthcare organizations in the state, as well as representatives from government, and payers. All meetings are open to the public, and the public is encouraged to attend and provide comments. (At the meeting I attended, most of the public seemed to be made up of healthcare industry folks like myself, although there was one attendee who spoke both as a physician and as a patient.)

The Collaborative’s mandate is to tackle four topics per year for quality and process improvements with the aim of statewide adoption in healthcare. Previous recommendations have included those for total joint replacement which is a hot topic due to new Medicare fines for readmission and lumbar spinal fusion, another hot topic due to the rising costs of back pain to employers, health systems, and in lost productivity. Recommendations include not just process recommendations and standardized ways to track outcomes, but also how to deliver care in a bundle. Payers like bundles because they provide some predictability to costs. Patients like bundles for the predictability of costs but also what they can expect from their care. Bundles pose the greatest challenge for providers, as often many of the services are provided by different organizations, for example skilled nursing or specialized physical therapy. Often surgeons are not even employed directly by the hospital where the patient undergoes a procedure. In this situation the hospital or healthcare organization needs to play quarterback and make sure the other organizations are staying within cost and quality guidelines. Add into this the fact that outcomes are so dependent on patient behavior and you can see what a tall order the Bree Collaborative, and organizations like it, have taken on.

At last week’s meeting topics included updates from groups focused on End of Life Care, Addiction/Dependence Treatment, as well as, an update from the state of Washington on state-wide measures to track quality and outcomes. New initiatives that were approved for 2015 workgroups included Coronary Artery Disease, Prostate Screening, Opioid Use, and Oncology. If you are a patient, provider, or payer stakeholder with an interest in any of these topics, you may want to subscribe to The Bree Collaborative’s newsletter to stay abreast of the workgroup’s progress and any recommendations.

In Western Washington, a new purchasing coalition made up of employers with less than 5000 people has formed. The Northwest Healthcare Purchaser’s Coalition is hoping to drive better outcomes and lower costs by combining the purchasing power of many smaller employers. In particular this group is working with local payers and providers Western Washington to try to lower the costs of back pain by implementing Bree Collaborative Workgroup recommendations at the community level. This means both clinical adoption within local healthcare organizations but also public education and awareness about recommendations for reducing back pain.

Going back to the quote from Margaret Mead that started this post, there is no doubt that The Bree Collaborative members are thoughtful, committed, and working for change. Possibly the one thing that is missing is more voices from citizens. All meetings are open to the public. If you have personal experience either positive or negative, especially around care, outcomes, and costs for any of the topics that the Bree is tackling, you’d be welcome at the next public forum. See you there?

And if you’re not in Washington State, there are initiatives like this going on across the United States. Not all are as friendly to the general public, but it’s our health and everyone needs to find a way to participate.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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Good, Fast, and Cheap: Demonstrating Value in Health Innovation

The goal of Triple Aim is to say that, despite what any project manager will tell you, you can have all three.

Good, Fast, Cheap

Source: http://ollmann.cc/

This provocative statement, set the tone for this third installment in Seattle’s  Health Innovator’s Collaborative, a talk called “Demonstrating Value in Health Innovation: Lessons from Comparative Effectiveness Research” by Larry Kessler, Professor and Chair, Department of Health Services, UW School of Public Health and formerly of the FDA, NIH, and NIMH. Dr. Kessler believes that the new accountable care organizations are mandated to deliver on all three and used the example of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement which was founded in 1991 on this principle and brings together leading hospitals, policy people, and researchers who are finding the best ways to deliver triple aim across many specialties.

Changes in how healthcare systems deliver care will drive innovation; however, innovation for its own sake will not win. Innovation must show evidence, cost savings, and revenue drivers. At the same time, it must satisfy a much wider group of stakeholders than previously including patients, physicians and clinicians, payers and providers. Innovative approaches and technology will take the leap past simply showing evidence of clinical outcomes to delivering value. This is a dramatically different approach from how typical NIH or FDA studies are done today. Those studies are done with a small slice of the population that is homogeneous, for example, they only have one issue and no co-morbidities. This type of study may prove outcomes with this particular population, but it doesn’t show cost or revenue based value and is no indicator of how something would work in the population at large, where the sickest patients are usually struggling with more than one issue.

Quality needs to be redefined as the best service AND the best health outcomes AND the best cost outcomes. Dr. Kessler went on to show some clear examples where solutions needed to go to the next level to be adopted and show results.

The first example provided a model that showed over a 5 year period, gastric bypass surgery proved cost effective. However, insurance plans do not include this surgery and require copious paperwork to justify it. This may make sense though, as the determinates of whether surgery is actually cost effective include a number of additional factors like the population and especially whether they will be part of your problem in 5 years. This is where the new accountable care organizations that are charged with population health will have an easier time with the cost benefit analysis as they be responsible for these patients in 5 years.

Another similar example is the new drug Solvaldi for the treatment of Hepititis C. It’s recently been in the news for its staggering price tag: $84,000 for a 12-week course. However, the drug has proved to be extremely effective, and University of Washington health economist Sean Sullivan points out “the drug is far cheaper than the alternative, which is a liver transplant and a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs.” Again, though, whether this is a bargain or not depends on how long the payer thinks they will be responsible for the patient.

Successful business outcomes based on cost savings were shown in the example of two diagnostic tests for whether breast cancer would reoccur. The FDA-approved test MammaPrint could predict the recurrence of breast cancer. The non-FDA approved test Oncotype DX could predict the recurrence of breast cancer AND whether chemotherapy would work for the patient. This test, while not FDA-approved became far more popular as it showed very clear cost savings and quality of life for patients who did not undertake unnecessary chemotherapy.

Another study, Back Pain Outcomes Using Longitudinal Data-Extension of Research (BOLDER) was able to consider the patient experience as part of treatment. This study looked at 5,239 patients over 65 with new primary care visits for back pain across 3 integrated systems: Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, Henry Ford Health System, Harvard Vanguard/Harvard Pilgrim. The study goal was to determine the impact of early imaging as an intervention. The results are not yet published, but a couple of observations were already apparent. First, patients sent for MRIs, delay getting physical therapy and if the MRI shows they need physical therapy rather than surgery they have delayed their recovery by the time they waited for the MRI. In this case, the intervention of imaging if it was not needed produced less positive results for patients.

This study used the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire and it was also noted that many of the standardized testing tools do not account for what the patient actually considers a good outcome, like whether they can sleep soundly or have sex. Again, this shows that studies need to go a step further into the real world application of the patient’s situation.

These examples showed that it’s not enough to show that an intervention or new technology worked in a study, they also need to work in the real world. For payers that means lowering costs, for providers that means lowering costs or generating revenue while improving outcomes, and for patients that means delivering outcomes that are important to them, not just clinically validated.

The final lecture in this series will be June 3rd with Peter Neupert of Health Innovation Partners. See you there!
“IT can make a big difference in health:  Why hasn’t it?”

Health Innovators Collaborative
4:30 PM, W.H. Foege Building, UW Campus
Seminar: Foege Auditorium (S060)
Reception: Foege North 1st Floor Lobby

 

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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