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.


Tags: affordability, industry interactions

Higher Quality Care: Matching Patients with Skilled Nursing Facilities

This is the fourth in 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.

When our patients need care after a hospital stay, it can be challenging to figure out which rehabilitation facility best meets their needs. That’s why Partners HealthCare has been exploring new ways to help our patients, their families and care providers better navigate their options.

Skilled nursing facilities or SNFs (sometimes called “nursing homes”) provide a high level of care for many patients discharged from the hospital. Physicians supervise the medical care in SNFs, and nurses and other health care professionals help patients as they recover. Until recently, there were no widely available data on quality, safety, or cost for individual SNFs. This forced nurses, case managers and doctors at the hospital to rely on anecdotes when recommending which SNF might be the best fit for a patient. Recently, though, there has been progress in making quality data on SNFs publicly available. Using these data and additional non-public information, Partners has created a robust, transparent process to build a network of high-quality SNFs to serve our patients – the Partners SNF Collaborative Network.


Tags: uniform high quality

Giving Back to the Community As Good Corporate Citizens

At Partners HealthCare, corporate citizenship is a natural extension of our core mission to expand access to affordable, quality health care in the communities we serve. It also manifests itself in other ways: creating meaningful educational and career opportunities, bringing nutritious meals to local children and families, helping new mothers give their children a healthy start and more.

That’s why we were honored to be acknowledged by the Boston Business Journal at their annual Corporate Citizenship Summit, which recognizes the philanthropic contributions granted by Massachusetts businesses to charitable organizations throughout the Commonwealth.


Tags: community

Investigating the Impact of Genomic Testing

With whole genome sequencing, it’s possible to tell patients years in advance what their future health may hold in store for them. But these possibilities raise new questions about the right way to handle such sensitive information. Now a government grant will help Partners HealthCare researchers look into the answers.

Over the next four years, Brigham and Women’s Hospital will use a $12.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to analyze 25,000 blood samples from the Partners Biobank to find genetic conditions that could point to hereditary diseases such as breast cancer or mood disorders. Researchers will deliver the findings to patients using our new Partners eCare system, then solicit their feedback about how they handled the news. They’ll also look at the psychological effects of receiving these results and the economic impact on the health care system.


Tags: research and discovery, technology

Why Research Preparedness Is Crucial to Emergency Planning

When hospitals assemble their emergency plans, the safety of patients, visitors, and staff is always a top concern, but at academic medical centers, there’s another important consideration to take into account: clinical research.

Clinical research brings its own concerns in an emergency. Years of work can be lost if paper notebooks are damaged by flood waters or frozen specimens thaw during a power outage. The nature of research brings organizational challenges, too. Some grant-funded staff in research labs may only work at a hospital for a year or two, so there’s a constant need to train new people on emergency procedures.

At Partners HealthCare, many of our researchers have taken steps and created plans to manage emergencies in their labs, but they have tended to conduct these activities independently of the other emergency preparedness activities occurring at the hospital. While Massachusetts was spared from the worst of Hurricane Sandy, we saw the terrible impacts on research colleagues at places like NYU Langone Medical Center, and we began to look at our own research preparedness from a new perspective.

Three Key Steps Toward an Integrated Approach

Healthcare emergency management frameworks and best practices typically focus on patient operations; most are not created for academic medical centers, but for traditional hospitals.

Since September is National Preparedness Month, it’s a good opportunity to think about research preparedness and how it should be integrated into a hospital’s broader emergency plans.

Here are four important steps to get started.


Tags: industry interactions, patient safety

Piloting Change and Driving Down Costs Through the Pioneer ACO Program

Today’s health care challenges call for innovative ways to improve the quality of care while reducing costs. For three years, we’ve been pursuing new solutions through the U.S. government’s Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program, and federal data released this week show that in the past year, we’ve slowed health care cost growth for 70,000 Medicare patients through the program.

During our third year participating in the Pioneer ACO, we saved $21.6 million, spending 2.7 percent below the benchmark Medicare uses to measure Partners’ performance. In combination with years one and two, we’ve saved a total of $39.2 million—$18.8 million of which were shared with the federal government.

In this pilot initiative, Partners is one of 19 health care organizations working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Innovation Center to transform the way health care is delivered. Through investments in population health management, patient-centered medical homes and our integrated care management program, among other initiatives, we’ve improved care coordination for some of our most complex patients.


Tags: affordability, uniform high quality

Fighting Hunger with Project Bread

Rep. Katherine Clark with children at SFSP site

Rep. Katherine Clark with children at a Summer Food Service Program site in Revere

Good nutrition is a cornerstone of good health, especially for growing children. A healthy diet is essential for healthy development, but some children experience hunger far too often. According to Project Bread’s “2014 Status Report on Hunger in Massachusetts”, more than 375,000 households across the state cannot confidently predict where their next meal is coming from.

That’s why we are supporting Project Bread and the Summer Food Service Program for our fifth summer to help ensure that all children have access to the meals that they need throughout the summer months. Partners’ support provides over 300,000 meals to over 6,000 children, a collaboration that represents our commitment to the health and well-being of all those living in the communities in which we live and work.

In Massachusetts, more than 400,000 low-income children qualify for free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch during the school year, and many count on those meals throughout the year. During the summer months, these children may not have access to the same meals. The Summer Food Service Program is essential for filling the meal gap many children are at risk of experiencing. Through the program, we provide free meals all summer long to children ages 18 and under at more than 900 sites throughout the state, including community centers, schools, parks, pools, day camps, YMCAs and more.


Tags: community

Inspiring Future Health Care Careers at Camp Harbor View

Ferry to Camp Harbor View

Aboard the ferry to Camp Harbor View

There is always something fun and exciting going on for both campers and staff during a summer at Camp Harbor View, which brings together youth from across the city’s neighborhoods on Boston harbor’s Long Island. We fill our days with all kinds of activities: swimming, soccer, sailing, arts and crafts, and more.

But we also like to switch it up sometimes and shift away from our normal routine. It helps keep campers engaged and interested in learning about new things. One of the ways we are able to do that is the Partners HealthCare Career Days. Campers are always curious when I mention that a career day is coming up because they don’t know what to expect. But they do know that they will definitely be learning something new – like how to take their blood pressure, how to perform the Heimlich maneuver and how an ultrasound works.


Tags: community, creating jobs

Higher-Quality Care: Using Telemedicine to Improve the Patient Experience

Across the United States and within Partners HealthCare, thousands of patients are discharged from an acute hospital to spend time at a rehabilitation hospital. Our patients often have complex medical needs due to illnesses such as burns, bone fractures or heart injuries. Staying at the rehabilitation hospital gives our patients more time to get stronger and be safer to go home. Sometimes this recovery can take weeks or even months.

While still staying at the rehabilitation hospital, many of these patients have to travel back to their doctor’s office for regular follow up appointments. This allows their original doctors from the acute hospital to make sure that the healing process is successful and avoid any possible complications.

However, it is hard to get patients from the rehabilitation hospital to their doctor’s office, and then back to the rehabilitation hospital. Many patients are still weak, and often cannot walk on their own. An ambulance ride is usually needed. This whole process can take up to five hours – so that patients can spend 15 to 20 minutes in the appointment with their doctor. Each of these trips can cost the health care system hundreds of dollars. But more importantly, they cause a lot of discomfort for patients and their families.

A new telemedicine program started in 2013 between Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is changing all of this.


Tags: uniform high quality

Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Oz Mondejar, Dr. Cheri Blauwet, Kristen McCosh

Partners HealthCare’s Oz Mondejar and Dr. Cheri Blauwet with Kristen McCosh, Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities for the City of Boston

Last week marked 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. From workplaces to public places, the ADA changed the way Americans with disabilities navigate their daily lives by setting guidelines for things like closed captions on TV, audible walk signs for pedestrians, accessible rest rooms and more.

Staff from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Partners HealthCare, and faculty and students from MGH Institute for Health Professions joined hundreds of area citizens on Boston Common last week to celebrate the progress that’s been made in the last couple decades and rally together with other disability advocates and their allies to think about much-needed future efforts.


Tags: community

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