A New York Times op-ed piece earlier this week addressed the need for smart cuts in health care spending. The article’s authors, Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Jeffrey B. Liebman, defined “smart cuts” as ones that could be made without shortchanging patients, and they referenced Mass General Hospital’s successful Care Management program as an example of an initiative that not only reduces costs but also improves coordinated care.
This program launched in 2006 and integrates nurse care coordinators into primary care practices while focusing on the sickest 10 percent of Medicare patients (read our earlier piece on the Care Management demo here). As Emanuel and Liebman write, “By assigning a nurse case manager to high-cost Medicare patients, Massachusetts General Hospital has reduced spending on these patients by 4 to 5 percent and also reduced mortality.”
The merits of the Care Management Program have also been detailed in The New Yorker and Boston Business Journal as well as on “Healthcare Uncovered,” an hour-long special broadcast on WCVB this past spring. Perhaps the greatest indication of its early success, however, is that Brigham and Women’s Hospital launched its own version of the Care Management Program in February 2010.
Everyone can agree that reducing costs is a priority, but it should never come at the expense of providing quality care. The Care Management Program demonstrates that “smart” cuts are possible in a way that actually improves care and saves lives.