Rival health systems partner in accountable care for $6M savings

With more providers partnering in the interest of patient care and cost savings, two competing health systems aligned in Minnesota to save $6 million, as well as improve patient satisfaction scores. Called a "learning lab" for accountable care organizations (ACO), nonprofit rivals Health Partners and Allina Hospitals and Clinics brought the growth rate of healthcare costs down to 3 percent from 8 percent after a year of collaboration, reports Minnesota Public Radio today.

"We are not-for-profits," said Dr. Brian Rank, medical director at HealthPartners. "To a certain extent we're competitors, but health care today eats up too much of the gross domestic product and we all believe we could do better together."

The Twin Cities collaboration focuses on the much cited triple aim that other ACOs tout, including improved population health, better individual experience, and affordable care. In 2009, Health Partners and Allina collaborated in a first-of-it-kind effort in the area, according to a 2009 Allina press release. Together, the two health systems arranged a payment agreement that rewards quality, patient experience, and cost savings. In addition, the two systems shared electronic health information and worked together to improve care for chronically ill patients and to reduce readmissions.

For example, after sharing data about physicians' patterns of prescribing name brand drugs compared to generics, the generic prescription rates rose and help cut medical costs by $1 million, according to the MPR article.

Although the organizations did not disclose the investment costs of the collaboration, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that the start-up costs will take $1.7 million per ACO, based on a 2008 study of the Physician Group Practice Demonstration project.

CMS predicts that ACOs could save Medicare up to $940 million from 2012 through 2015.

For more information:
- read the MPR article
- read the press release

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