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Clinical Integration Enables Leading Health Systems to Deliver Higher Quality, Cost-Effective Care
Date:9/6/2011

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- In today's economic and health care environment, hospitals face increasing urgency to strengthen relationships with physicians.  Among the concerns are an aging population driving increased demand for health care (and a growing Medicare population), reimbursement reductions and changes, and physician shortages in key specialties. In this environment, it is more critical than ever that hospitals engage physicians to enhance health care quality while also improving efficiency and cutting costs across all care settings.

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To achieve these goals, physician organizations at leading systems such as Covenant Health System, a member of St. Joseph Health System based in Orange, CA, and Memorial Hermann Healthcare System of Houston have developed Clinical Integration (CI) programs.  These programs can serve as a bridge for hospitals to join the Medicare Shared Savings Program after first developing accountable care capabilities through contracts with private payers and local employers.

In Clinical Integration programs, a network of independent physicians collectively commits to collaborate with a hospital or health system to delivering improvements in quality and cost of care.  Once the CI program is established, physicians in the CI network may negotiate collectively for commercial payer contracts and present them for antitrust review by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  These contracts can include pay-for-performance components that allow both physicians and hospitals to receive incentive payments for improved quality and efficiency achieved via enhanced collaboration, which must be demonstrated through compliance with recognized clinical best practices and improved outcomes.  

Both Covenant and Memorial Hermann developed their CI programs with CRIMSON (R) physician performance technology services from The Advisory Board Company, a global research, consulting, and technology services firm serving a membership of more than 2,900 of the world's leading health care organizations.  

CRIMSON is a division of The Advisory Board Company that helps hospitals and health systems advance quality goals and secure cost savings by providing data, business intelligence, and other services to eliminate inefficiencies in care delivery.  CRIMSON's ability to provide detailed cost and quality data across the continuum of care -- encompassing inpatient, outpatient, and ambulatory settings -- is a key component in many best-practice Clinical Integration programs.

Covenant Health Partners is the Physician Hospital Organization arm of Covenant Health System, a five-hospital system in Lubbock, Texas.  Founded in 2007, Covenant Health Partners today includes over 300 community-based physicians, half of whom are employed by Covenant Medical Group and half of whom are independent physicians in the community.  As a CI network, the organization has entered into several contracts and has achieved exceptional gains in clinical performance, including reducing average length of stay by 1.1 days and eliminating incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia cases for 18 months.  

"Physicians have responded well to our model for engaging them in the Clinical Integration program, especially the 'self service' component," said Michael Camacho, COO, Covenant Health Partners.  "To be eligible for shared savings, both employed and independent physicians are required to log in and review their own severity-adjusted cost and quality performance data that is benchmarked against their peers.  Last year, 80% of physicians in the program logged in to examine their data and are a driving force toward positively impacting patient outcomes and quality metrics."

Covenant Health Partners is currently working with CRIMSON to address population management.  John Grigson, CFO of Covenant Health System and CEO of Covenant Health Partners stated that, "With health care reform requiring more quality, cost efficiency, and transparency from physicians and health care providers, Covenant Health Partners, together with CRIMSON, is transitioning toward using Clinical Integration as a base for population management to produce the highest quality of care with the lowest cost."

Memorial Hermann Physician Network, the physician group associated with the 11-hospital Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in Houston, received FTC review prior to launch with favorable feedback in 2008 for a CI program that now includes 2,400 physicians.  Benchmarked against nonparticipating physicians, CI program physicians' average lengths of stay were 29 percent lower and complications of care were 15 percent lower during the first year of the program.  Subsequent years of the program have shown similar performance.

"We have put a lot of effort into educating our physicians on CRIMSON and they have come to trust the data we collect and its reflection of their performance," said Shawn Griffin, MD, Chief Quality and Informatics Officer for Memorial Hermann Healthcare System and Memorial Hermann Physician Network.  "Today, we dynamically track clinical activity across care settings and achieve an unprecedented level of coordination.   Our Clinical Integration program has been one of the critical tools that have enabled us to continue to provide quality care while reducing the cost of delivering care to our own employees by 9 percent."

Participating physicians who met the bonus criteria with Memorial Hermann received their first bonus payout in fall 2010, which has increased interest in the program from physicians who had not previously participated.

"Covenant Health System and Memorial Hermann Healthcare System have emerged as leaders in building an environment of trust not just with the physicians they employ, but also with physicians at independent practices across the continuum of care," said Paul Roscoe, CEO, CRIMSON.  "For many hospitals, extensive employment of physicians is not an option.  In these cases, Clinical Integration presents the most effective means for hospitals and physicians to participate in aligned incentive models measuring quality and cost metrics."

For more information on clinical integration services from The Advisory Board Company, please visit the CRIMSON homepage of the Advisory.com website.  Hospital and health system executives may register for the free Webconference, "Six lessons for building a clinical integration program that works," with Covenant Health Partners' Michael Camacho on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. EDT.

About Covenant Health System

Covenant Health System is a member of St. Joseph Health System, one of the most successful not-for-profit health systems in the United States.  It was founded in 1998 through the merger of two of Lubbock's most venerable heath care facilities, St. Mary of the Plains Hospital and Lubbock Methodist Hospital System.

Covenant Health System is the largest health care institution in the region with 1,326 licensed beds, more than 5,000 employees and a medical staff of more than 600 physicians at its cornerstone facilities.  Covenant serves a 62-county area spanning West Texas and eastern New Mexico, with a population in excess of 1.2 million.  Cornerstone hospitals are Covenant Medical Center, Covenant Women's and Children's, and Covenant Specialty Hospital.  Other system hospitals are Covenant Hospital Levelland and Covenant Hospital Plainview, along with 12 other affiliated hospitals across the region.  For more information please visit www.covenanthealth.org.

About Memorial Hermann Health System

An integrated health system, Memorial Hermann is known for world-class clinical expertise, patient-centered care, leading edge technology, and innovation. The system, with its exceptional medical staff and more than 20,000 employees, serves southeast Texas and the greater Houston community. Memorial Hermann's 11 hospitals include three hospitals in the Texas Medical Center, including a level 1 trauma center, a hospital for children and a rehabilitation hospital, and eight suburban hospitals.  The system also operates three heart & vascular institute locations, the Mischer Neuroscience Institute, the Ironman Sports Medicine Institute, an air ambulance, cancer, imaging and surgery centers, sports medicine and rehabilitation centers, outpatient laboratories, a wellness center, a chemical dependency treatment center, a home health agency, a retirement community and a nursing home.  To learn more, visit www.memorialhermann.org.

About CRIMSON

CRIMSON is a national collaborative of hospitals and health systems dedicated to strengthening hospital-physician alignment and clinical performance.  Combining business intelligence technology with best practice implementation, CRIMSON offerings are developed with hospitals, health systems and physicians seeking improved alignment on key clinical, operational and strategic goals.   CRIMSON currently supports more than 440 individual hospitals, representing over 300,000 physicians.  To learn more about CRIMSON offerings, please visit the CRIMSON homepage on our website.

About The Advisory Board Company

The Advisory Board Company is a global research, consulting, and technology firm partnering with 125,000 leaders in 3,200 organizations across health care and higher education.  Through its innovative membership model, the firm collaborates with executives and their teams to elevate performance and solve their most pressing challenges.  The company provides strategic guidance, actionable insights, web-based software solutions, and comprehensive implementation and management services. For more information, visit the firm's new website, http://www.advisory.com.


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