Value Partnerships at 20: Collaboration That Makes Health Care Work Better for Michigan and Beyond

Daniel J. Loepp

| 4 min read

Daniel J. Loepp is President and Chief Executive Officer of...

The delivery of health care has changed significantly over the past 20 years. In Michigan, the shift has been extraordinary, in large part because of the statewide collaborative efforts among physicians, hospitals and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan that we call Value Partnerships.
The year 2024 marks 20 years of our Value Partnerships programs, which were created to improve patient experience, quality, and costs. These initiatives provide a unique structure that enables physicians and surgeons across the state to collect and share data, work together and develop best practices that shape how care is delivered in Michigan and beyond.

2004: An uncoordinated, siloed health care ecosystem

Twenty years ago, health care was not well coordinated among providers, locations or settings. It was a difficult process to share patient information from different points of care. This added critical time and complexity to a physician’s ability to make important decisions.
Before Value Partnerships was introduced, health care was 100% fee-for-service, which meant payments were made for every service provided to a patient in a health care setting. This approach prioritized volume over value. There was no incentive for value – the success of treatments in promoting the overall health and well-being of each patient.
This broken approach to payment was a key factor in decades of excessive health care cost increases without regard to patient outcomes or experience. To change this, BCBSM gathered a small group of physician leaders and started talking. We discussed our respective challenges and what changes we thought needed to be made to the payment model. We outlined a vision, set parameters and agreed on goals.
Through this process, BCBSM gave physicians the support they needed to make vital changes that have improved health care quality and safety, prevented complications, avoided costs and enhanced experiences for patients. We changed how we pay for health care, connecting reimbursement more closely with the outcomes delivered.
To build upon this momentum, we continued gathering, talking, sharing information and collaborating.
The program has grown to more than 20,000 physicians, 100 hospitals and 40 physician organizations across Michigan.

Value Partnerships in Practice

Value Partnerships has been a launching pad for change that has influenced care beyond Michigan. Providers in 27 states participate in some of the initiatives. The program has also garnered international attention with providers around the world learning from its discoveries, decision support tools, presentations and published research.
Many things have changed because of Value Partnerships programs, including:
  • Today we have patient-focused primary care. When you visit your primary care practice, you may notice the doctor asking about your mood, your access to transportation, and whether you need assistance with food, medication or other personal support. Your doctor’s office may also have a pharmacist, nutritionist or mental health specialist available to help you. This whole-person, team-based approach is part of the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model, where your health care is personalized to your individual needs. Our PCMH program, a key part of Value Partnerships, is the nation’s largest of its kind.
  • Changes have been made to how opioids are prescribed. To reduce the risks of patients developing opioid dependency, surgeons now typically prescribe 10 pills or less, after 27 of the most common surgeries. This is because Michigan surgeons compared data and revised prescribing guidelines to help patient outcomes. Overall, surgeons have reduced opioid prescribing by 65% without a negative effect on patients’ pain levels.
  • Recovery and safety after surgery has improved. Due to research, analysis and collaboration, surgeons were able to show that getting patients up and walking the same day after back surgery sped up their recovery, reduced complications and improved their outcomes. It is now standard practice.

2024: A high-performing health care system

Value Partnerships initiatives have facilitated monumental change in health care delivery. Patients across Michigan are getting the care they need, at the time they need it, in the most appropriate setting. That means:
  1. More personalized, coordinated health care
  2. Better connections to health care teams
  3. Avoided ER visits and hospital stays
  4. Prevented errors and complications
  5. Less cost

Better Together

I’m incredibly proud of the progress that’s been made through these collaborations. Our partnerships with physicians and physician organizations have been essential to this progress. Together, we’ve created a high-performing health care system by improving quality and outcomes while connecting reimbursement to value.
Value Partnerships is the driving force behind pivotal, systemic change in how care is delivered, and I couldn’t be more excited about what’s ahead.
BCBSM will be sharing stories about Value Partnerships throughout the year. I encourage you to come back to this site to learn more.
Daniel J. Loepp is president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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