Success of Michigan hospital partnerships lands on New York Times front page

Success of Michigan hospital partnerships lands on New York Times front page

A recent front page story in The New York Times about nationwide efforts to trim hospital costs highlights news coverage of BCBSM’s efforts to improve patient safety and health care quality through its partnerships with Michigan hospitals.

In April, the Blues announced that four of its Collaborative Quality Initiatives with Michigan hospitals saved $232.8 million over three years.

Here’s a roundup of stories that take a deep dive into the news:

New York Times: In Michigan, for example, Blue Cross financed an effort to have the state’s major hospitals compare results in areas like bariatric or general surgery so that they could reduce infection rates and surgical complications. The insurer never sees data that identifies individual hospitals, and the hospitals meet regularly to discuss how they can learn from one another to improve care.

“There’s basically a ‘leave your guns at the door’ attitude,” said Dr. Darrell Campbell, the chief medical officer for the University of Michigan Health System.

The program’s benefits extend far beyond Blue Cross’s own customers, according to the insurer’s calculations. Only a third of the savings was attributable to patients it insured. Unlike previous attempts by insurers to reward individual hospitals for quality and efficiency, the program tries to help all hospitals improve.

The earlier efforts, which focused on overly specific measures or reporting on individual hospitals, “tended to inspire providers to do the least necessary to achieve the incentive rather than the most to transform care,” said Dr. David Share, a senior executive at Blue Cross.

Detroit Free Press: The Blue Cross-funded programs, called Collaborative Quality Initiatives, create hospital registries of patients who undergo procedures at participating hospitals to improve care, reduce costly complications and identify best practices in medicine. These data collection systems are growing with health reform, but Michigan has been an early front-runner of the programs, starting with an angioplasty registry in 1997.

More than 70 Michigan hospitals are involved in the Blue Cross-funded programs in 12 areas of health care.

Crain’s Detroit Business: (BCBSM Chief Medical Officer Tom) Simmer said the quality improvement initiatives helped Blue Cross lower medical cost trends.

Under the program, hospitals share data and best practices and create new processes that reduce errors, prevent complications and improve patient outcomes.

Health Care Weekly Review: More than 70 hospitals across Michigan, which includes all large and medium-size acute care hospitals in the state, participate in at least one CQI, and collectively, the 12 CQIs analyze the care given to nearly 200,000 Michigan patients annually. The hospitals share data to find links between medical or surgical processes and patient outcomes, and then create new processes that reduce errors, prevent complications and improve patient outcomes.

In addition to the four CQIs whose savings results were announced, eight other CQIs are underway to study cardiovascular imaging, peripheral vascular disease, blood clot prevention, breast cancer, trauma center quality, operating room safety, hip and knee replacement, and radiation treatment for cancer.

Becker’s Hospital Review: These quality improvement efforts also yielded significant improvements in patient outcomes, including mortality rates, radiation dosage and surgical site infections.

AIS Report: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s April 17 announcement that it generated cost savings of $232.8 million through a three-year program to improve the quality of common medical procedures may cheer other payers in the Great Lake state — including Medicare, Medicaid and competitors. That’s because almost 70% of the savings accrued to other payers, according to the Michigan Blues plan.

“These results are significant, and clearly demonstrate the impact of hospital-based collaborations with payers,” says Kristi Mitchell, vice president in the evidence-based medicine practice at Avalere Health, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy. (…)

She notes that hospitals, physicians and payers exploring accountable care organizations might want to look to the lessons learned in these programs for strategies to improve quality and reduce spending.

For more information about the Blues’ Collaborative Quality Initiatives, visit

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