HHS hopes to prevent 1M strokes, heart attacks by 2017

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Thursday announced a new payment model that aims to prevent one million strokes and heart attacks by 2017.

Speaking at the White House Conference on Aging regional forum in Boston, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced the "Million Hearts" model, which seeks to reduce the nation's 610,000 deaths a year from strokes or heart attacks, as well as the $315.4 billion annual cost, according to the announcement. Research last year also found that cardiovascular events are the leading cause of death worldwide.

Under the current model, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) pays providers based on specific goals relating to patient cholesterol, blood pressure or other factors. The new model rethinks this one-size-fits-all approach, opting instead for a data-driven predictive model that creates personalized risk scores for individual patients.

Providers that participate in the initiative will collaborate with beneficiaries to determine a percentage that represents their heart attack or stroke risk within the next 10 years. Providers will also identify risk reduction steps that work best for an individual patient, such as taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, reducing blood pressure or quitting smoking, to create a personalized plan. CMS will pay participants that cut their high-risk patients' absolute risk of stroke or heart disease, according to the announcement.

CMS is now accepting applicatins for the initiative, which will operate for five years and plans to enroll 300,000 participants. CMS seeks practices of several sizes and patient mixes, including general practice, internal medicine, cardiovascular care or hospital-owned physician practices, according to the initiative's fact sheet. The agency will select 360 experimental practices and 360 control group practices from the applicant pool.

A 2014 study found that if all states had the same mortality rates as those with the lowest rates, 34 percent of premature heart disease deaths and 33 percent of premature stroke deaths could be prevented--a combined total of nearly 200,000 people.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- read the fact sheet