The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Special Editions

March 31, 2014

Health providers holding down costs while better coordinating care

Health providers holding down costs while better coordinating care

Among all of the clamor over the rocky start to health insurance reform and the long-held perception of out-of-control health care spending, something unique happened without a lot of fanfare.

“Health care costs went up less than inflation the past two years nationally,” said Dr. Greg Kutcher, president and CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.

“And that’s not by accident. There’s a lot of focus on doing things differently and being more efficient.”

But it’s not simply looking for areas to cut expenses as the push in health care is also to provide better outcomes for patients. The idea is that if someone with a chronic health condition – such as diabetes – has more coordinated care that keeps them healthier longer, the patient not only reaps obvious benefits but costs are held down because more intense treatment can be avoided.

At the Mankato Clinic, they call the approach Health Care Homes.

“We’re working more in teams to proactively reach out to patients, especially those with chronic disease conditions,” said CEO Randy Farrow.

“We make sure they come in for regular care. We see what their health care goals are and how we can help them meet those goals. You use clinically based research to reach those goals.”

At Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic, the health care providers aren’t managing people’s chronic conditions.

“Our care is episodic. You blow out your knee and we take care of it, and maybe down the road you dislocate your shoulder and come in,” said Andrew Meyers, CEO of OFC.

Still, they too are focused much more on developing the best outcomes as insurers are more and more interested in comparing the outcomes of different physicians and health provider groups.

Meyers said such comparisons can be very tricky. “They all talk about quality outcomes but they never really define what that is.” And he said it is impossible to compare the success of an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in very complex cases and those who do more routine cases.

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