December 17, 2010
2 min read

Health care organizations announce collaborative effort to improve care, lower costs

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Six of the nation's leading health care systems have announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration to improve health care quality while reducing costs.

Cleveland Clinic, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Denver Health, Geisinger Health System, Intermountain Healthcare, and Mayo Clinic will join The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice to share data on outcomes, quality, and costs across a range of common and costly conditions and treatments, according to a press release announcing the collaboration. The group will determine best practices for delivering care for these conditions and will rapidly disseminate actionable recommendations to providers and health systems across the United States. In addition to achieving better quality and outcomes, the collaborative intends to improve the efficiency of standard clinical care delivery to reduce the per capita cost in these conditions and to keep costs in pace with the consumer price index.

The collaborative will initially focus on eight conditions and treatments for which costs have been increasing rapidly in recent years and for which there are wide variations in quality and outcomes across the country: knee replacement, diabetes, heart failure, asthma, weight loss surgery, labor and delivery, spine surgery, and depression.

"The intractable problems of quality and cost cannot be solved without getting to the fundamental issue of how we deliver health care in this country," stated Brent C. James, MD, chief quality officer at Intermountain Healthcare and executive director of the Intermountain Institute for Health Care Delivery Research. "By collaborating to gather data and identify the most effective care models, we can address variation in treatment, cost, and outcomes to give patients the quality care they need and bend the cost curve down in a meaningful way."

The collaborative noted that the six health care systems have a combined patient population of more than 10 million people. It will share data on outcomes and clinical protocols for the selected conditions and treatments to arrive at optimal care models which can then be implemented by many other health care systems. The collaborative aims to see these best practices replicated across the country.

The Dartmouth Institute will coordinate data sharing and analysis, and report results back to the collaborative members to inform development of best practices.

The collaborative will first analyze total knee replacement and the collaborative partners will build the metrics to study the care of the other selected conditions at their centers and arrive at best practices. Work to define best practices in diabetes and heart failure care will begin early in 2011.

"There is broad support from other health care systems across the country who want to participate in the work of the collaborative," stated James Weinstein, DO, MS, director of The Dartmouth Institute. "It would be enormously valuable to have the broadest geographic and demographic representation in the sharing of outcomes and experience."

Developing models to reduce cost, while improving quality, is only part of the equation, the collaborative stated. An equally important goal is to impact the clinical care of patients across the country by disseminating these models quickly and working with providers and health systems to adapt them to local conditions.