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Kansas Docs To Join Initiative Aimed At Rewarding Quality Over Volume

Iowa Healthcare Collaborative

Roughly 1,000 Kansas doctors soon will be participating in a massive nationwide initiative aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of the health care system.

The Kansas doctors will be part of a six-state transformation project managed by the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative, a nonprofit organization formed in 2004 by doctors and hospitals in the state.

Dr. Tom Evans, the CEO of the Iowa collaborative, said each of the participating states will be free to focus on its own improvement strategy.

“We’ll be the main contractor, but we believe state strategies need to be freestanding,” Evans said. “Kansas’ strategies need to be about Kansas, Nebraska’s need to be about Nebraska and so on.”

Georgia, Oklahoma and South Dakota are the other states participating in what has been named the Compass Practice Transformation Network. It’s one of 39 collaborative groups selected to be part of a $685 million campaign announced Tuesday by the Obama administration to transform the fee-for-service system into a performance-based system that rewards quality over volume.

The Compass Practice Transformation Network will be funded by a four-year innovation grant of $32.5 million from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“This is the first step in what’s going to be a long transition, going from a strictly fee for service-based payment methodology to one that’s more performance-based,” said Jerry Slaughter, executive director of the Kansas Medical Society. “It’s unprecedented. It’s going to change how everybody in the health care system is going to be paid in the future.”

Groups of participating Kansas doctors will be assigned coaches to help them develop better ways of managing patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes. The coaches will use data from electronic health records to identify high-need and high-cost patients and then work with doctors to develop more effective and efficient treatment protocols.

“Historically, the thesis statement has always been, ‘If we can get (patients) to a doctor or to the hospital, they’ll be better,” Evans said. “But that’s not the case. There are tons of studies that show that access to health care improves a patient’s health, but it doesn’t necessarily fix it. And there are a whole bunch of people who just fall through the cracks.”

Those studies, said Kendra Tinsley, executive director of the Kansas Healthcare Collaborative, demonstrate that “more care is not necessarily better care.”

Tinsley’s organization, which was formed in 2008 by the medical society and the Kansas Hospital Association based on the Iowa model, will lead Kansas’ participation in what federal officials are calling the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative.

Tom Bell, president and CEO of the hospital association, said the Affordable Care Act may still be controversial but it’s not practical to turn back the clock on the changes it has and continues to make in the health care system.

“It makes no difference who’s in the White House or who’s in control in Topeka or who controls Congress or the state Legislature,” Bell said. “This stuff is going to happen. As they say, the train has left the station.”

Dave Ranney is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

Jim McLean is executive editor of KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

Jim McLean is a political correspondent for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration based at KCUR with other public media stations across Kansas. You can email him at jim@kcur.org.
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