When it comes to clinical analytics, the more data, the better. HIMSS attendees can learn about an innovative state-wide collaborative improvement effort that has removed unwanted variation, cut costs and improved quality across multiple specialties by pooling together claims data on the types of surgical and specialty care that represent two-thirds of the U.S. health care bill annually.

“For many years, health system leaders have had little motivation to worry about variation in either cost or quality, but in the current environment, the risk associated with uneven cost and quality has moved from payers to hospitals,” says the presenter, John Birkmeyer, M.D., a surgeon who directs the University of Michigan’s Center for Healthcare Outcomes and Policy and also founded the analytics firm ArborMetrix. He also has served in advisory roles for CMS and the ACS-National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, and chairs the Leapfrog Group’s expert panel on evidence-based hospital referral.

The Michigan Value Partnership was begun in the late 1990s by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and now includes most of the hospitals and health systems in the state, as well as all the major payers. Birkmeyer plans to outline how the partnership helps hospitals and specialty physicians understand the care they give, compared with their peers, in order to reduce unwanted variation, overuse, underuse, and uneven quality.

He’ll use a bariatric surgery project to illustrate the details of the process and show how it has accelerated improvements in outcomes. “Michigan is the safest place in the country to have bariatric surgery, and we’ve cut the overall cost,” he says. He’ll also share the lessons learned from the partnership, and describe the major pitfalls and challenges encountered in making the program effective and practical.

The talk will be geared toward hospital IT professionals who may be involved in data collaboratives with other institutions, as well as toward health system executives and payers.

Birkmeyer says the program wasn’t an easy sell to providers initially, and they were driven by both the carrot of payment incentives and the stick of having payers saddle them with some measure even more burdensome if they rejected the data partnership. However, the perspectives of the stakeholders have evolved considerably. “Providers realize that post-ACA, they have a powerful business interest to improve quality and reduce waste,” he says. “And the physicians used to view it as just one more burdensome program that they had to do because payers or hospitals told them to, but over time, they’ve become more internally motivated and intellectually stimulated by it.”

The session “Improving Surgical Outcomes and Lowering Costs with Clinical Analytics” is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 27, at 10:30-11:30.      

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