Accountable Care Alliance
Omaha, Neb. – Methodist Health System, The Nebraska Medical Center, and their affiliated physicians are joining together to form the Accountable Care Alliance. This partnership is being developed to reduce costs to patients and to improve quality and efficiency of patient care across the two health systems.
The Accountable Care Alliance will be structured like an accountable care organization, one of the models being considered by the federal government under health care reform as a way to reduce health care costs. An accountable care organization is an integrated health care delivery system that relies on a network of primary care physicians, specialists, and hospitals that are held responsible for the quality and cost of health care to a defined patient population.
“We are taking this proactive step now so that we will be better prepared to respond to the demands from the federal government and private insurance companies who are concerned about cost and quality of care of those they insure,” said William Shiffermiller, M.D., chief medical officer at Methodist Health System and Accountable Care Alliance board member.
“The two health systems complement each other well,” said Peter Whitted, M.D., former chief of staff at The Nebraska Medical Center and Accountable Care Alliance board member. “Methodist Health System and The Nebraska Medical Center have been friendly competitors, now the accountable care organization will give us a model to break down barriers to provide the best care for our patients.”
Patients with chronic conditions (diabetes, congestive heart failure, cystic fibrosis, etc.) and patients who are frequently readmitted to the hospital will especially benefit. The Accountable Care Alliance can help to increase communication between doctors and hospitals, reduce duplication of services, limit unnecessary tests, make sure transitions from hospital to home are better managed, and help patients maintain good health in their homes to reduce hospital utilization.
“We want to see fewer patients being readmitted time and again to our hospitals,” said Dr. Whitted. “By sharing resources and expertise, we can create a system for not only managing a person’s illness but working to ensure that person stays healthy in the long term.”
The Accountable Care Alliance is committed to improving the health of patients long after the doctor’s appointment or hospitalization has concluded.
“It is important that we be innovative in how we care for an individual patient,” said Dr. Shiffermiller. “In order for a patient to stay as healthy as possible, the care can’t only take place in the doctor’s office or hospital. We also need to think of ways for a patient to maintain good health at home.”
For a diabetes patient, this may mean a daily phone call or text after the patient is discharged from the hospital to make sure the patient is taking her medications and monitoring her blood sugar levels.
Closely monitoring a patient’s care could also include making sure the patient has a complete and accurate list of prescribed medications along with proper instructions as well as booking a follow-up appointment for a patient and making sure that the patient has transportation.
Dr. Whitted adds it will also be important to encourage patients to take responsibility for their own health. As an ophthalmologist, Dr. Whitted says too often he sees diabetes patients in his office with eye problems that may have been prevented if they had scheduled regular eye exams.
“It took a long time to change behavior of people to get them to wear seatbelts every time they got in the car, but it happened.” said Dr. Whitted. “We need people to start thinking about their health that way, too.”
Finally, the Accountable Care Alliance will allow both health systems to share knowledge and performance criteria to ensure both health systems are performing at their best and providing the highest level of quality care.
“For example, if Methodist was seeing a higher number of patients with post-operative infections than The Nebraska Medical Center, Methodist can learn from what is driving the medical center’s good outcomes and adopt those best practices in our health system as well,” said Dr. Shiffermiller.
The Accountable Care Alliance will be operated by a 12 member board of directors (six representatives, mostly physicians, from each hospital system). The board had its first meeting on Feb. 1, 2010. More information is available online at www.accountablecarealliance.com.