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Rush in Consortium Granted $46.4 Million to Accelerate Clinical Transformation

(Chicago) — Rush University Medical Center is part of a network of Midwestern hospitals recently awarded $46.4 million in federal funds to help physicians accelerate the shift to health care delivery that improves outcomes and lowers costs.

The Great Lakes Practice Transformation Network is one of 29 organizations to receive funding as part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ $685 million Transforming Clinical Practices Initiative that provides clinicians technical assistance and peer- level support to collaborate on cost reduction and quality improvement strategies.

“This network allows us the opportunity to take a broad look at how we provide high quality care across a variety of medical specialties to ultimately improve the health of the population of patients we serve,” said Michael Hanak, MD, assistant professor with Rush's Department of Family Medicine.

“Taking advantage of information technology resources of our partners across the region — and aligning our work with best practices from this national network — will accelerate our ongoing efforts to improve quality while reducing health care costs.”

Driving this effort to improve quality while reducing costs will be 52 quality improvement advisors, licensed allied health professionals who will receive specialized training helping physicians integrate evidence-based practices into existing workflows. These advisors also work directly with patients to help them be more actively involved in managing their own health — especially chronic conditions like high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, depression and diabetes.

“Because these advisors are providing direct technical assistance to teams of clinicians and working directly with patients, even small workflow changes in the outpatient setting can be transformational,” Hanak added.

Great Lakes Practice Transformation Network Initiative leaders stress that being part of a large network established specifically to share innovative tactics and technologies will result in patients benefitting much sooner from high quality, cost effective care. 

“New approaches, especially the preventive measures for patients when they are not in our offices, require new tools and new ideas. Being part of such a large consortium of high quality players not only means we’ll have access to a wealth of innovative approaches, but we’ll be able to verify the impact of these efforts in a fraction of the time,” Hanak said. 

For example, clinicians in the network have discussed an electronic registry to identify and respond to patients with certain chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.  Better patient engagement tools will allow clinicians to greatly compress the typical time frame of monitoring and measuring a therapy’s effectiveness.  And because the registry tracks outcomes across a much broader network of dozens of hospitals, the outcomes data will be much more significant. 

Smoothing the transition to value-based care

Great Lakes Practice Transformation Network participants will also receive direct assistance in  preparing to accept new payment models that reward providers for meeting specific quality measures for certain patient populations.

The federal government has set a goal of tying 30 percent of traditional, or fee-for-service, Medicare payments to quality through alternative payment models, such as accountable care organizations or bundled payment arrangements by the end of 2016. The goal is 50 percent of payments to these models by the end of 2018. Private insurance companies are also adopting value-based payment models.

But such a fundamental shift in how healthcare is paid for requires substantially different skill sets and information systems.  The technical assistance and peer support provided through this federal funding is expected to help participating providers better align revenue systems with these alterative payment models.

Other Illinois institutions in the Great Lakes Practice Transformation Network are Northwestern Memorial Hospital (coordinating entity for the region) and the Northwestern Medical Group, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, University of Chicago Medical Center, UIC Medical Center, Stroger Hospital, Neighborhood Health Group, and Alliance of Chicago Community Health Services.

“Supporting doctors and other health care professionals change the way they work is critical to improving quality and spending our health care dollars more wisely,” according to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Patients will have more of the information they need to make informed decisions about their care and give clinicians access to information and support to improve care coordination and quality outcomes, she noted at the time the grants were announced.”

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