NEWSLETTER: Better Together Health 2016

The use of care teams and care coordination is improving, a new study finds. But technology and 24/7 access to care is still not widely available and preventive primary care is critically lacking.

The results are from the Nielsen Strategic Health Perspectives study. Designed to assess progress in achieving coordinated care, it surveyed 30,007 U.S. consumers and 626 physicians to understand their experiences related to the hallmarks of accountable care: care team coordination, prevention, 24/7 access, evidence-based medicine and use of robust information technology.

The annual study is sponsored by the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP), which believes that neither the quality of American health care nor its cost can be improved without real systemic change completely focused on the needs of both physicians and patients. CAPP released the survey results at its most recent Better Together Health event, “Better Together Health 2016: Patient Expectations and the Accountability Gap,” co-sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center on June 15 at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health in Washington, D.C. The Better Together series seeks to bring together respected health care organizations, patient advocates and policy experts to amplify and accelerate the momentum on changing the health care delivery system so it is patient-centered, integrated and physician-led.

ACHP President and CEO Ceci Connolly moderated a town hall on patient stories demonstrating the benefit of integrated care delivery at Southern California Permanente Medical Group and at Billings Clinic.

“Listening is one of the most underrated skills in health care,” said Connolly. “It is so great to hear from organizations that prioritize patient input.”

One story featured Jesus, a food services professional and father of three, who developed severe diabetes resulting from poor nutrition and lack of exercise. In just five months, Jesus, with the help of his health care team, had his diabetes under control by overhauling his diet and taking up cycling. Jesus said the program changed his life, transforming him into a new person. Marc Klau, M.D., assistant regional medical director of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, discussed how the medical group’s Diabetes Complete Care program helped Jesus overcome his chronic condition.

“It’s the best of all worlds,” said Dr. Klau. “You have a team, you activate the patient with resources and then behind it you have this high tech technology world that’s constantly monitoring to make sure Jesus gets everything he should be and if he doesn’t, the system activates.”

At ACHP, members are taking this integrated, technological approach. HealthPartners offers virtuwell, an online clinic that is available around the clock. At Geisinger Health Plan, case managers reach out to nursing homes to direct administrators to a customer’s primary care doctor before calling an ambulance. And UPMC is taking advantage of smartphones, allowing individuals to view wait times at clinics from an app instead of a doctor’s office. This eye toward factors outside of the hospital is helping patients receive better care.

During a panel discussion at the event, Leana Wen, M.D., Health Commissioner of Baltimore, stressed understanding an individual’s everyday habits is essential to providing quality care, as most consumers do not view themselves as patients.

“Up to 90 percent of what determines how healthy someone is [happens] outside of the hospital,” said Dr. Wen.

To help better understand what goes on when a customer is no longer under the watchful eye of a doctor, Geisinger Health Plan uses technology to remotely monitor patients when they are discharged. A stream of data is collected to prevent future medical emergencies or a return to the hospital. The technology is also beneficial when managing chronic conditions. For individuals at risk of heart failure, using the program results in a 23 percent lower instance of hospital readmission during any month.

When access, prevention and coordination come together, doctors and patients can create a system of health care delivery that better serves the needs of physicians and consumers alike.

The entire webcast of Better Together Health 2016 will be available through mid-summer here.