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Sunday, 16 August 2015 22:00

6 Michigan health systems join care network to drive best practices

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The six Michigan health systems that aligned for a care network want to accelerate improvements in cost and quality by adopting and sharing common standards in an era of accountable care.

The partners involved in the new unnamed organization plan to integrate their care networks and have their medical staffs collaborate to share best practices. The notion is that they are better working collectively, rather than on their own, to share risks, improve health, prevent illnesses and address the issues that drive up the cost of care.

“In a health care environment that really hopes that we will be able to improve the health of our populations and enhance health care and save costs, and in a world that hopes health care can deliver on that request, we’re all working to build the capacity and the competence to do that well,” said Loren Hamel, the president and CEO of Lakeland HealthCare in St. Joseph.

Hamel also serves as vice chairman of the 12-member board that consists of physicians and chief executives and will oversee the clinically integrated network.

“We feel strongly that we can do that most efficiently and most effectively by working together,” Hamel said. “Every organization has opportunities where it can learn and every organization has opportunities where it can teach, and we have put together a group of what we believe are high-value health systems that are willing to learn and willing to teach.”

The six health systems involved in the clinically integrated network are Lakeland HealthCare, Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, Sparrow Health System in Lansing, Allegiance Health in Jackson, Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw and MidMichigan Health in Midland.

“Ultimately, we want to improve the value for patients and lower the cost of health care,” said Bronson President and CEO Frank Sardone. “This allows us to harness and leverage the abilities of all of these organizations. We’re starting from a good starting point and we’ll be able to build on that.”

The next step for network partners is to recruit and hire a chief executive and build an organizational structure in the coming months. Then they’ll go to work to identify priorities for areas of care to share best practices.

The venture is similar to an integrated care network called Together Health formed last year by Ascension Health Michigan, the parent corporation of Borgess Health in Kalamazoo, and Trinity Health, which owns Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids and Mercy Health Muskegon.

The drive to connect clinically to better care for broad patient populations, eliminate costs and improve the quality of care stems from changes that are rapidly progressing in health care. In a new era of value-based contracting that’s altering how hospitals and doctors are paid by insurers, clinical integration is essentially bringing the practice of industry standardization to health care in a much larger way than it’s been previously used, sources said.

Research has repeatedly shown that the cost and quality of care can vary greatly from one geographic market to another, or even within the same market. Clinical integration can ease those geographic variations and help to bring all participants to a higher performance level through a standardized, evidence-based care model.

“We’re working to identify the most impactful areas that we can improve our services and … to standardize the way we do that,” Sardone said. “It is not six different solutions to a single opportunity. It’s one solution across six organizations for that opportunity, and we’ll look for many opportunities. It’s all about standardizing the way we improve health and standardizing the way we improve health care and standardizing the way we improve cost.”

Enabling that push is the deployment and advancement in the last decade of more robust electronic health records and information technology systems. The technology allows physicians and hospitals to gather and analyze data on health trends and predict future costs and trends.

The ability to gather and share data “has dramatically improved” in a relatively short period, giving care providers a greater ability to make data-driven decisions, identify best clinical practices and share them with peers more quickly, Sardone said.

“We’ve built the foundational elements and data is key to it,” Sardone said. “We are moving out of the period of installation of the systems and to now the harnessing of the data in an actionable way to improve care. We’ve gotten a lot of energy focused on what is the best actionable data, what analytics do we use, and what are the predictive models that can be used. It’s an exciting time that will really — to an even greater extent — harness the power of the systems that we have invested in.”

The health care industry has been going through a period of consolidation involving health systems that need to get larger to optimize costs and adapt to the new era brought on by the federal Affordable Care Act.

A clinical integration model can offer an alternative for health systems seeking a partner or partners to accelerate improvements without going through a merger with a larger institution.

“Lakeland wants to remain as responsive to our community and as independent as possible in a health care environment that is clearly consolidating,” Hamel said.

Read 5098 times Last modified on Tuesday, 18 August 2015 16:37

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