Health care industry becoming more transparent

Filed under: Health Care |

America’s health care sector is shifting rapidly to a system where patients can get better information about the quality and cost of care, and there is competition to provide them with the best value.
That’s the word from Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, from a roundtable of key business, union, government, community and health care leaders from across the United States.
Less than a year after launching the Value-Driven Health Care Initiative, Leavitt announced that more than 100 million Americans are served by health plans that provide transparent quality and cost information.
In August, President George W. Bush signed an executive order committing the federal government to the “four cornerstones” of value-driven care: health information technology, public reporting of provider quality information, public reporting of cost information and incentives for value comparison. Since then, Leavitt has traveled to 34 states to talk to communities that are piloting this approach, medical associations that are assisting in the development of quality information, businesses, unions and employers.
Most plans that are committed to the value-based approach, including all federal agencies that contract with health plans, will emphasize value-driven care during their next contracting cycle, generally for 2008. And most enrollees are expected to have access to Web-based “report cards” about quality or cost within the next 12 months.
As of May, about 775 employers had switched their health plans to include value-based information. That number represents about 21 million employees and their families.
Federal programs using the transparency initiative include about 43 million Medicare patients, 5 million veterans, 8 million military personnel and their families, 3.5 million federal employees and more than 1 million Americans Indians.
So far, 18 states and the District of Columbia have committed to the initiative, representing more than 26 million enrollees. In addition, 23 state Medicaid programs, with 20 million enrollees, are pursuing value-based principles, with a focus on the encouragement of health information technology adoption, quality measurement and appropriate incentives.
“Consumers have extensive information to help them make good choices when they buy cars or get mortgages,” Leavitt said. “But when it comes to choices about their health care, little information about quality or cost has been available. The purpose of the Value-Driven Health Care movement is to make that information available, and then reward people for using it.”
More information is available at www.hhs.gov/valuedriven.

St. Mary-Corwin featured in new publication

What do St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” have in common? Both are featured in the inaugural issue of Vim & Vigor, a quarterly regional publication that focuses on healthy living in Colorado.
Articles feature medical experts from St. Mary-Corwin, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado Springs and St. Thomas More Hospital in CaÑon City.
The summer issue also includes information about the health system’s “Speak Up” program, precautions for summer athletes, diabetes programs and an “ask the experts” segment about preventing skin cancer.

New blog focuses on pandemic flu

The U.S. government is using a blog to help prepare for a pandemic flu attack.
The Pandemic Flu Leadership blog was launched by the Department of Health and Human Services and includes input from leaders in business, health care and community services.
“The conversation about individual preparedness for pandemic flu must extend nationwide through all possible channels, including social media and the Internet,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said.
HHS is one of the first government agencies to use the participatory nature of the Internet to create a dialogue about a specific issue or campaign. The effort to engage individuals in an online conversation is the one of many steps HHS will be taking to encourage Americans to prepare so that they will be better able to withstand the impact of a pandemic, slow the spread of disease, and lessen the overall impact to themselves, their families and to society.
Ideas and dialogue generated during the blog will contribute to HHS’ pandemic influenza leadership forum June 13 in Washington, an event which will bring together about 80 business, faith, civic and health care leaders.
“It may not be possible to predict with certainty when the next flu pandemic will occur or how severe it will be, but it is essential to prepare ahead of time and that time is now,” Leavitt said. “We are the first generation ever to have an opportunity to prepare in advance of a pandemic. Government alone can’t prepare the nation for a pandemic. This is a shared responsibility.”
Bloggers will be asked questions about the threat of a pandemic in the United States and will discuss what might be done to help their employees, constituents, customers, congregations and clients prepare.
The Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog will be on the Web through June 27 at blog.pandemicflu.gov.
Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.