KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

New Models For Care Coordination And Accountability Cut Costs, Study Finds

The study, published in Tuesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, examined how some approaches that lower spending and improve quality for one set of patients could spill over and benefit other patients.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: ACOs' Coordinated Care Savings May Be Contagious
An early cost-sharing program in Massachusetts designed to cut costs for private Blue Cross Blue Shield patients also lowered costs for Medicare patients who were seen by the same providers, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Gold, 8/28).

Reuters: Obamacare-Like Groups May Produce 'Spillover' Savings
A program focused on primary care and coordination of services between groups of doctors and hospitals reduced costs for patients who were not even covered by the plan, according to a new study. Previous research has found that the Massachusetts accountable care organization, or ACO, saved money and improved quality of care for people it covered directly (Pittman, 8/27).

Modern Healthcare: Study Examines Changes In Spending, Quality For Medicare Beneficiaries
Medicare may enjoy the fruits of the growing and varied work among private payers and providers to boost value in healthcare, though the benefits will come sooner to costs than quality, a study suggests. The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the extent to which strategies that lower spending and improve quality for one group of patients would spill over and indirectly benefit other patients (Evans, 8/27).

Medpage Today: ACOs Can Save Medicare $, Study Finds
An accountable care organization (ACO) established by a private insurer reduced costs of care for Medicare enrollees, a study in Massachusetts found. Providers participating in the Alternative Quality Contract (AQC) -- an early commercial ACO backed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts -- reduced spending on Medicare beneficiaries by 3.4 percent after 2 years compared with enrollee costs at nonparticipating providers, researchers reported in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. However, the program didn't consistently improve quality of care for Medicare patients, Michael McWilliams, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues found (Pittman, 8/27).

The New York Times: Lessons in Maryland for Costs at Hospitals
Yet Western Maryland Health Systems, the major hospital serving this poor and isolated region, is carrying out an experiment that could leave a more profound imprint on the delivery of health care than President Obama’s reforms. Over the last three years, the hospital has taken its services outside its walls. It has opened a diabetes clinic, a wound center and a behavioral health clinic. It has hired people to follow up with older, sicker patients once they are discharged. It has added primary care practices in some neighborhoods. The goal, seemingly so simple, has so far proved elusive elsewhere: as much as possible, keep people out of hospitals, where the cost of health care is highest. Here, the experiment seems to be working (Porter, 8/27).

The Associated Press: States Experimenting To Lower Health Care Costs
Oregon health officials are concentrating on coordinating services and preventing hospital stays. New Jersey medical centers are rewarding doctors who can save money without jeopardizing patient care. And Massachusetts is expanding the role of physician assistants and nurse practitioners (Cooper, 8/28).

Boston Globe: Blue Cross Changes Alternative Quality Contract
In Massachusetts, more than 18,000 doctors care for nearly 700,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield members under an alternative way of paying for medical treatment that is meant to control costs and reward physician groups that keep patients healthier. These physicians may be changing how they treat their other patients as well, a new study suggests (Kowalczyk, 8/27).

In other hospital news -

The Wall Street Journal's Risk & Compliance Journal: Q&A With John Bandy, Memorial Health System
John Bandy was the first information security officer at the 500-bed Memorial Health System, based in Springfield, Ill. Prior to his appointment in 2010, no one in the system had primary responsibility for cyber security. He told Risk & Compliance Journal how he went about building a security program from scratch (Millman, 8/27).

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