Ochsner Health Network's David Carmouche on helping docs see the care integration light

The recent growth of a Louisiana health network demonstrates the importance of care integration and physician engagement to population health management efforts.

Ochsner Health Network has grown significantly in not much time, Executive Vice President David Carmouche told U.S. News & World Report. The network has 30 hospital members and, by year’s end, the network projects it will have 2,200 physicians involved in clinical integration.

Comprehensive care integration “starts with the realization that, when you have the analytic capability to assess how care is delivered for different conditions, you can see that similar patients can have significant variation in how they're treated and how much their care costs,” Carmouche told the publication. “Two people with knee pain can have a sixfold or eightfold difference in the cost of their care without necessarily having any appreciable difference in their outcomes.”

Actively making that happen, he said, means doctors must use evidence-based strategies to reduce waste and duplicate services. To get to that point, Ochsner has created 20 registries of patients with similar conditions using electronic health records to ensure they receive the right care. The system is also examining alternative care models, such as organizing physician assistants and nurse practitioners to empower them to deliver primary care. The network is also taking the lead in realigning incentives to promote value-based care models ahead of similar shifts in the healthcare system at large.

The time is right for these reforms, Carmouche said, because doctors increasingly understand that care integration and population health can co-exist with their jealously-guarded autonomy, which has even industry veterans re-thinking care delivery to incorporate care costs and quality.