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Transition to value-based care requires planning, communication

Establishing a value-based care environment requires institutional readiness and oftentimes changing an organization's mindset on how it delivers care.

Transitioning to value-based care can be a tough road for healthcare organizations, but creating a plan and focusing on communication with stakeholders can help drive the change.

Value-based care is a model that rewards the quality rather than the quantity of care given to patients. The model is a significant shift from how healthcare organizations have functioned, placing value on the results of care delivery rather than the number of tests and procedures performed. As such, it demands that healthcare CIOs be thoughtful and deliberate about how they approach the change, experts said during a recent webinar hosted by Definitive Healthcare.

Andrew Cousin, senior director of strategy at Mayo Clinic Laboratories, and Aaron Miri, CIO at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and UT Health Austin, talked about their strategies for transitioning to value-based care and focusing on patient outcomes.

Cousin said preparedness is crucial, as organizations can jump into a value-based care model, which relies heavily on analytics, without the institutional readiness needed to succeed.  

"Having that process in place and over-communicating with those who are going to be impacted by changes to workflow are some of the parts that are absolutely necessary to succeed in this space," he said.

Mayo Clinic Labs' steps to value-based care

Cousin said his primary focus as a director of strategy has been on delivering better care at a lower cost through the lens of laboratory medicine at Mayo Clinic Laboratories, which provides laboratory testing services to clinicians.

Andrew Cousin, senior director of strategy, Mayo Clinic LaboratoriesAndrew Cousin

That lens includes thinking in terms of a mathematical equation: price per test multiplied by the number of tests ordered equals total spend for that activity. Today, much of a laboratory's relationship with healthcare insurers is measured by the price per test ordered. Yet data shows that 20% to 30% of laboratory testing is ordered incorrectly, which inflates the number of tests ordered as well as the cost to the organization, and little is being done to address the issue, according to Cousin.

That was one of the reasons Mayo Clinic Laboratories decided to focus its value-based care efforts on reducing incorrect test ordering.

To mitigate the errors, Cousin said the lab created 2,000 evidence-based ordering rules, which will be integrated into a clinician's workflow. There are more than 8,000 orderable tests, and the rules provide clinicians guidance at the start of the ordering process, Cousin said. The laboratory has also developed new datasets that "benchmark and quantify" the organization's efforts.  

To date, Cousins said the lab has implemented about 250 of the 2,000 rules across the health system, and has identified about $5 million in potential savings.

Cousin said the lab crafted a five-point plan to begin the transition. The plan was based on its experience in adopting a value-based care model in other areas of the lab. The first three steps center on what Cousin called institutional readiness, or ensuring staff and clinicians have the training needed to execute the new model.

The plan's first step is to assess the "competencies and gaps" of care delivery within the organization, benchmarking where the organization is today and where gaps in care could be closed, he said.

The second step is to communicate with stakeholders to explain what's going to happen and why, what criteria they'll be measured on and how, and how the disruption to their workflow will result in improving practice and financial reimbursement.

The third step is to provide education and guidance. "That's us laying out the plans, training the team for the changes that are going to come about through the infusion of new algorithms and rules into their workflow, into the technology and into the way we're going to measure that activity," he said.

Cousin said it's critical to accomplish the first three steps before moving on to the fourth step: launching a value-based care analytics program. For Mayo Clinic Laboratories, analytics are used to measure changes in laboratory test ordering and assess changes in the elimination of wasteful and unnecessary testing.

The fifth and final step focuses on alternative payments and collaboration with healthcare insurers, which Cousin described as one of the biggest challenges in value-based care. The new model requires a new kind of language that the payers may not yet speak.

Mayo Clinic Laboratories has attempted to address this challenge by taking its data and making it as understandable to payers as possible, essentially translating clinical data into claims data.     

Cousin gave the example of showing payers how much money was saved by intervening in over-ordering of tests. Presenting data as cost savings can be more valuable than documenting how many units of laboratory tests ordered it eliminated, he said.

How a healthcare CIO approaches value-based care

UT Health Austin's Miri approaches value-based care from both the academic and the clinical side. UT Health Austin functions as the clinical side of Dell Medical School.

Aaron Miri, CIO at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and UT Health Austin Aaron Miri

The transition to value-based care in the clinical setting started with a couple of elements. Miri said, first and foremost, healthcare CIOs will need buy-in at the top. They also will need to start simple. At UT Health Austin, simple meant introducing a new patient-reported outcomes program, which aims to collect data from patients about their personal health views.

UT Health Austin has partnered with Austin-based Ascension Healthcare to collect patient reported outcomes as well as social determinants of health, or a patient's lifestyle data. Both patient reported outcomes and social determinants of health "make up the pillars of value-based care," Miri said.  

The effort is already showing results, such as a 21% improvement in the hip disability and osteoarthritis outcome score and a 29% improvement in the knee injury and osteoarthritis outcome score. Miri said the organization is seeing improvement because the organization is being more proactive about patient outcomes both before and after discharge.  

For the program to work, Miri and his team needs to make the right data available for seamless care coordination. That means making sure proper data use agreements are established between all UT campuses, as well as with other health systems in Austin.   

Value-based care data enables UT Health Austin to "produce those outcomes in a ready way and demonstrate that back to the payers and the patients that they're actually getting better," he said.

In the academic setting at Dell Medical School, Miri said the next generations of providers are being prepared for a value-based care world.

"We offer a dual master's track academically ... to teach and integrate value-based care principles into the medical school curriculum," Miri said. "So we are graduating students -- future physicians, future surgeons, future clinicians -- with value-based at the core of their basic medical school preparatory work."

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