HHS initiative will fund care improvement efforts

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services today announced it would spend up to $840 million over the next four years to fund innovative healthcare strategies designed to improve patient care and lower costs. 

Patrick Conway, M.D., deputy administator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told reporters during a conference call this morning that the initiative aims to support networks that help doctors access information and improve health outcomes. The agency projects the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative will save between $1 billion and $4 billion, according to Conway.

"I hear from physicians and other clinicians across the country about the need for this type of work," Conway said, "These improvements hinge on peer-to-peer learning and helping clinicians develop strategies to share, adapt and further improve their practices and rapidly spread those best practices and improvements to other healthcare providers."

The project will fund potential strategies such as improving physician access to information on patient medication adherence, expanding available modes of patient/doctor communication, and improving coordinated, team-based care by "making sure everyone is talking to each other so that the patient's experience is seamless," he said. A July survey found poor communication costs hospitals $11 billion a year.

The initiative will be open to applications from healthcare systems, provider associations, group practices, and regional and state institutions, Conway said. "Successful applicants will demonstrate the ability to achieve progress toward measurable goals, such as improving clinical outcomes, reducing unnecessary testing, achieving cost saving and avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations."

As part of its multipronged approach, Conway said, the initiative will award cooperative agreements to both practices that have made measureable improvements in care and outcomes (practice transformation networks) and health networks formed by professional associations seeking to align their resources to support those networks (support and alignment networks).

"The AMA [American Medical Association] has been urging the Administration to assist physician practices in adopting new payment and delivery models and we're pleased that they have created a program that supports physician leadership," Barbara L. McAneny, M.D., chair of the AMA Board of Trustees, said in a statement. "We strongly believe that practice transformation can lead to improvements in the quality of care for patients, control healthcare costs and enhance practice sustainability as physicians embrace innovative new models."

To learn more:
- read the HHS statement
- here's the AMA statement