What Has Partners Done to Reduce Costs?

As Massachusetts led the nation in tackling access to health care in 2006, we are leading the way on the cost question, too. Numerous state agencies and The Boston Globe have reported on the record low cost growth that has occurred in Massachusetts since 2009. Nationally, the rate of cost increases has been the lowest since these figures began to be published in the 1960s.

How is Partners doing its share? In 2006, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) began what became the most successful test of a new approach to caring for complex, chronically ill Medicare patients. The idea was to improve care and lower costs through better care management, earlier intervention and tracking. For every dollar spent, the program saved $2.65. This became the model for Partners’ system-wide population health management initiative.

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Tags: affordability, redesigning care

Depression Screening for All Adults Deserves a Thumbs Up

At Partners HealthCare, we’ve made it a priority to integrate behavioral health care into our primary care practices, particularly through population health management programs. In this post, Dr. Brent Forester, who heads up these efforts, explains the important role of screening primary care patients for mental health conditions – a topic also covered in today’s Boston Globe, which discusses our screening process at MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center.

Last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that primary care physicians screen all adult patients, including pregnant women and new moms, for depression, and that’s good news for improving quality of care and quality of life for individuals and their families while also helping to contain health care costs.

What Is Depression?

  • Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad, but generally these feelings pass within a few days. When someone has depression, these feelings persist and interfere with daily life.
  • An estimated 7 percent of American adults suffer from depression every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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Tags: coordinated care

Health Care Pricing Reflects Quality – and a Host of Other Factors

A report released by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) last week has once again brought the complex issue of price variation to the forefront of health policy conversations. While the HPC and others are quick to highlight providers that charge higher prices than their competitors, their conclusions leave out a number of key facts.

Here are three points that need to be considered when talking about price variation.

1. Price variation is not unique to Massachusetts.

Price variation is widespread in health care markets across the country…

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Tags: affordability, redesigning care

Putting Massachusetts Health Care Costs in Context

In Massachusetts, we’re known for offering a standard of medical care that is among the best in the nation and even the world – patients come from all over for treatment at our hospitals. We’re also known for having some of the nation’s highest medical costs. However, while health care spending in Massachusetts is high in absolute terms, the costs aren’t so out of line when you consider the state’s economy and the quality of care offered.

Health care premiums in Massachusetts are among the lowest in the nation when you adjust for household income, according to research by The Commonwealth Fund. We have the fewest uninsured, best quality of care and most mandatory benefits of any state. But, as we all know, Massachusetts is an expensive place to live. To put things in perspective:

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Tags: affordability, redesigning care

Why It’s Time to Reduce Health Care Costs in Massachusetts

Reducing the cost of health care is a top priority for Partners HealthCare. For the past 40 years, per capita health expenditures in the U.S. have risen at a rate higher than inflation, with challenging consequences. For U.S. employers operating in a global marketplace, rising health care costs can be crippling to the bottom line. When it comes to government payers, tight budgets that have to accommodate defense, infrastructure, education, social services and more can’t tolerate increasing health care costs. Finally, some argue that too much health care spending is wasted.

There’s no question that something needs to change, and we have an obligation to help make that happen. Through a series of posts here, we’ll be sharing our thoughts on this subject including the facts about health care costs and how we are doing our share to reduce them.

For background, read a few of our recent posts on the cost of health care…

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Tags: affordability, redesigning care

Transparency on Our Finances

Occasionally, as part of the ongoing health care cost dialogue, the issue of hospital assets is raised and the question is asked – why do hospitals need “reserves”? Most hospitals and health systems across the state have some level of investment assets and there are good reasons for it.

Our Assets

Partners is fortunate to be a well-managed, financially-healthy organization. As the largest health care system in the state and the largest private employer, Partners had investments worth $7.5 billion as of September 30, 2015 (the end of our latest fiscal year), a level comparable to other health systems of similar size around the country.

Our Investment

Included as part of that $7.5 billion are $1.3 billion in gifts that Partners received from generous donors around the world; these funds were given to our hospitals for specific purposes and research programs and are restricted in how they can be used.

But, to get the full picture of our health, both sides of the balance sheet need to be considered. For example, think about home ownership. While on one hand, an individual may have a home that has significant value, most homeowners also have a debt against that asset in the form of a mortgage. The same is true of Partners. We have substantial liabilities – including debts we owe, lease commitments and pension obligations – that offset our investment assets.

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Tags: affordability

Higher-Quality Care: One Patient, One Record

This is part of an ongoing series by our Quality, Safety & Value team highlighting Partners HealthCare’s efforts to develop and implement best practices across our network of hospitals to improve the quality of care patients receive while reducing costs.

What do electronic health records have to do with the quality of health care?

In this series, I’ve shared my opinion on a range of quality and safety advances developed by my colleagues across Partners. Today, I want to share my experiences with one that is less obvious: Partners’ biggest investment in quality, the $1.2 billion electronic health record we call Partners eCare.

This electronic health record (EHR) will be accessible across all of Partners, from billing to the point of care. It allows a single electronic medical record for each of our 1.5 million patients. A single medical record will enable so much and, if done right, will accelerate new treatments and advance ever-higher quality health care.

With one record, each patient’s pertinent health care facts will be readily accessible in any of our clinics, on every floor of our hospitals, at our rehabilitation hospitals and even in patients’ homes, by our home health nurses and therapists.

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Tags: uniform high quality

A Perspective on Health Care Costs

This is the first in a series of occasional posts from Partners HealthCare President and CEO David Torchiana, M.D.

I was recently given the opportunity to talk about Partners HealthCare at a breakfast meeting of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The topics included concerns about the opioid crisis, our commitment to community health centers and population health management, and our Partners Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) programs to help area students through college, not just with financial support but with mentoring and academic support that would help to ensure that as many as possible could complete their course of study. Getting to college is only the beginning; graduating is the prize.

Since this was a business event, the region’s flourishing life sciences industry was also a principal topic. This sector of our economy has grown many times faster than competitor cities over the last 15 years, a development that can be traced to our concentration of great research universities and teaching hospitals. Four of the nation’s top five independent hospitals funded by NIH are in Boston, and the top two among them are MGH and BWH.
Top NIH-Funded Independent Hospitals

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Tags: affordability

Accountable Care Compass Awards Showcase Achievements in Massachusetts Healthcare

From startup incubators to preventive patient safety measures, health care providers throughout Massachusetts are finding unique and innovative ways to redesign care. Recently, the Massachusetts Hospital Association presented their inaugural Accountable Care Compass Awards to recognize some of the excellent efforts by the Commonwealth’s providers to deliver high-quality, safe, efficient care.

The six winning programs took a range of new approaches to improving care. Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cape Cod was recognized for its “Chasing Zero Harms” program to improve patient safety by preventing falls, pressure ulcers, medication errors, hospital-acquired infections and acute transfers/readmissions among hospital patients.

At Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), a Care Redesign Incubator and Startup Program (BCRISP) funded projects proposed by clinical teams to improve care and lower costs. Another winning program from BWH focused on failures and disparities in care for lung cancer patients.

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Tags: industry interactions, redesigning care

Why the 2015 Cost Trends Hearing Shows Both Progress and Potential

This week, the Health Policy Commission met for their annual Cost Trend Hearing to address the challenges our industry faces in controlling health care costs. While many questions remain, some progress has been made, and insurers and providers alike were on hand to share the efforts that collectively they have taken to reduce costs.

For example, Partners HealthCare is one of a handful of providers to participate in new, innovative contract models with Blue Cross Blue Shield, which were announced on Monday. As The Boston Globe reported, the contracts “set budgets to care for patients and reward providers for keeping patients healthy and away from expensive hospital stays and procedures.” It’s an alternative payment model that gives added incentive for positive outcomes, rather than providing reimbursement for all services rendered.

“The single most promising approach to improve patient care and lower costs is to change the way we pay for care — to realign financial incentives to reward the quality, outcome and efficiency of the care patients, our members, receive,” Andrew Dreyfus, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, told the Commission.

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Tags: affordability, industry interactions

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