Healthcare News & Insights

CMS discusses population health initiatives

More hospitals and healthcare providers are being asked to play a role in managing not just their patients’ health, but population health as a whole. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has just announced the results of several population health initiatives it’s been funding, and the results could change the way your hospital delivers care. 

In a new blog post on cms.gov176825529, Dr. Patrick Conway, CMS’ principal deputy administrator and chief medical officer, discusses the success of some of the projects that received financial support from the agency’s Innovation Center.

Each initiative touched on different aspects of the care process for a specific group of patients.

Cancer patients

One program involved thousands of patients receiving cancer treatment across the country. The Community Oncology Medical Home initiative gave these patients comprehensive cancer care.

As part of the program, providers were given specific disease management guidance so they could make better decisions regarding treatment, and they learned new strategies to identify and manage patients’ symptoms.

Additionally, patients were offered more flexibility and improved access to providers through same-day appointments, along with extended hours on evenings and weekends.

These changes were beneficial all around, and they improved patients’ health overall. Fewer cancer patients were readmitted to the hospital due to their illness, and visits to the emergency department also decreased.

Chronically ill children

Another CMS initiative involved improving care for fragile children with complex chronic conditions who receive Medicaid. To better serve these young patients, the University of Texas Health Science Center founded a High-Risk Children’s Clinic.

All children cared for at the clinic are assigned a clinician who is in charge of educating each family about the child’s illnesses. The goal was to get families more directly involved in their children’s health, and to make them more knowledgeable about their role in the recovery process.

As a result of this program, the health center reported lower medical and hospital costs when caring for these patients. There were also fewer hospital admissions and trips to the ED, and families reported a higher level of satisfaction with their child’s care.

Fewer issues with surgery

Preventing surgical complications is significant for hospitals – especially as bundled payments for procedures become the norm.

In an attempt to improve post-surgical outcomes for patients, CMS provided funding for Welvie, a program designed to provide patients with comprehensive information about surgeries before they even schedule the procedures.

Welvie’s goal is to inform patients about all their options so they can make better decisions about surgery. The program does regular outreach to various populations during certain time periods where research shows that the frequency of certain elective surgeries increases.

The program is only active in Ohio and Texas, but it could spread to other states since it’s demonstrated some success. Patients in Ohio had lower mortality rates and lower readmissions after surgery. And there also were some cost savings with various surgery-related expenses.

Teamwork important

CMS has invested close to $1 billion in these program and other similar initiatives designed to boost population health, so it’s clear the agency wants hospitals and healthcare providers to make it a top priority in their facilities.

The preliminary success of these initiatives suggests that hospitals need to start building relationships with various types of providers so they can better coordinate care and take a more team-based approach to improving patient outcomes.

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