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BCBSM Initiative Incentivizes Data Collection on Social Factors

BCBSM Initiative Incentivizes Data Collection on Social Factors

Health equity is a top priority for providers across the country, who are keenly aware of the prevalence and exacerbation of existing health inequities. The state of Michigan in particular ranks poorly in measures of population health and social determinants of health (SDOH), which represent a huge opportunity to improve equity and health outcomes for patients. Health equity is currently a key strategic focus of the Michigan Value Collaborative (MVC) Coordinating Center in the years ahead, as well as for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM). As work in this area grows, some suggest that better data collection is the next critical step to improving health equity.

Data collection is the focus of BCBSM’s latest initiative - the SDOH Standardized Data Collection and Aggregation Initiative - which offers incentives to physician organizations (POs) for collecting and submitting SDOH screening data. Its goal is to increase SDOH screening by primary care physicians during annual wellness visits as well as enhance SDOH data submitted to the Michigan Health Information Network (MiHIN), Michigan's nonprofit statewide health information network.

This data will be used in the short term to improve data conformance and SDOH definitions within the Michigan provider community. Ideally, this initiative will help BCBSM to improve care coordination between providers, identify gaps in resources and community-level social need trends, and provide analytics and reporting to the provider community. The long-term goal is to reduce disparities and improve health outcomes.

There are multiple pathways for POs to participate, primarily by either submitting screening data through MiHIN’s SDOH use case, or by developing infrastructure to enable participation in MiHIN’s SDOH use case. BCBSM sees this incentive program as an important step toward ensuring all patients receive the care they need.

“The SDOH initiative is valuable for both patients and providers because it encourages providers to screen for SDOH needs in patients and also encourages that the data from these screenings is exchanged in an interoperable way,” said Karolina Skrzypek, MD, Medical Director of Clinical Partnerships at BCBSM. “It is very important that providers across the state of Michigan have the ability to access SDOH screening data regardless of where the screening took place. Screening for SDOH needs by providers is the first step in helping to address these needs in our patients.”

These points were echoed by Martha M. Walsh, MD, MHSA, FACOG, Medical Director of Clinical Partnerships and Engagement at BCBSM, who said, “We know that when patients have SDOH needs, that it is more difficult for them to have their healthcare needs met and for patients to care for their chronic conditions. Our initial goal in having providers screen for SDOH needs is for patients to have their needs addressed at the point of care.”

Some POs are already actively submitting this data to MiHIN and can receive incentive payments for continuing to do so. The other pathways are focused on those who have capacity to store and extract SDOH data but are not submitting it to MiHIN, or those POs who don’t yet have the digital infrastructure in place. Helping all POs to achieve a similar capacity and submit their data to the same vendor will allow for a broader understanding of the gaps and communities in need of further funding.

“By aggregating this data, we hope to learn more about specific domains of need and geographic areas with the most needs so that we can start to address these more broadly,” said Dr. Walsh. “We hope that by screening for and addressing SDOH needs, we will start to be able to decrease disparities in care for our most vulnerable patients.”

Incentives for the MiHIN SDOH use case pathways are paid out of the BCBSM Physician Group Incentive Program (PGIP) reward pool. Therefore, any deadlines related to participation are based on PGIP payment cycles. Those POs wishing to participate in the October 2022 cycle should submit their opt-in form and any other required materials by the end of August.

A separate value-based reimbursement (VBR) reward was created specifically for patient-centered medical home (PCMH) designated primary care physicians for completing SDOH screenings using Z codes. This VBR payment was available when the SDOH initiative launched in January. Provider offices had six months to work towards meeting the criteria to receive VBR effective 9/1/2022. Criteria for the 2023 cycle was previously announced and updates to the criteria will be provided during the upcoming BCBSM September PGIP quarterly meeting.

Any POs or providers interested in learning more about this initiative and the pathways for participating can read the full brochure here and submit questions directly to BCBSM at POPrograms@bcbsm.com. In addition, if your PO or hospital has success stories or insights that have resulted from collecting SDOH screening data, please consider sharing your story and insights with the MVC Coordinating Center at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com.

Support for MVC is provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as part of the BCBSM Value Partnerships program. Although BCBSM and MVC work collaboratively, the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of BCBSM or any of its employees. To learn more about the Value Partnerships program, visit www.valuepartnerships.com.

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Breastfeeding Awareness Month: The Value of Hospital Initiatives

Breastfeeding Awareness Month: The Value of Hospital Initiatives

As August is National Breastfeeding Month, many healthcare professionals and hospitals across the country are joining in to promote its benefits. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first six months of life and then alongside solids as long as mutually desired by mother and child for two years and beyond. This updated recommendation – the AAP previously recommended breastfeeding through age one and beyond – acknowledges its continued benefits for mother and child.

Many experts suggest that it is an investment in the health of current and future patients, not just a lifestyle choice. In updating its guidance, the AAP clarifies that breastfeeding beyond one year and up to two years has significant benefits to the mother in particular; lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and ovarian cancers are associated with long-term breastfeeding. In breastfeeding infants, some studies indicate there are fewer respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, incidents of severe respiratory disease or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), development of chronic illnesses, doctor visits, hospitalizations, and prescriptions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that an additional $3+ billion in medical costs per year can be attributed to low breastfeeding rates.

Breastfeeding is a personal choice – not everyone wants to or even can breastfeed their baby. For those who choose to, however, being successful is linked to the presence of interventions and support along the way. Evidence-based practices at the hospital level are a critical component for establishing breastfeeding.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) cited a systematic review of 38 randomized controlled trials that found short- and long-term increases in breastfeeding as a result of direct assistance and education across a variety of providers and settings in conjunction with structured training for health professionals. The AHRQ and the AAP also both cite increases in breastfeeding initiation and duration as a result of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, which gives a special designation to facilities that successfully complete an assessment and implement the World Health Organization’s 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.

Some of the evidence-based practices linked to higher breastfeeding rates include individualized support in the first few hours and days following birth, rooming-in, and education and support. Additionally, the CDC’s 2018 national survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) identified institutional management as an area with the widest range of scores across all states, with 45 being the lowest state score and 95 the highest state score (see Figure 1). As this category is defined by activities such as nurse training and clinical competency, record keeping, and policy setting, it is clear that some important breastfeeding initiatives extend beyond the maternity ward.

Figure 1. National score and state score ranges for mPINC subdomains in 2018

According to the AAP, there are also significant opportunities for more equitable gains in breastfeeding outcomes. The United States continues to see evidence of disparities in success rates – none of the Healthy People 2020 objectives for breastfeeding were met for non-Hispanic black mothers and infants. The rates for any breastfeeding are approximately 10% lower in non-Hispanic black mothers compared to the average for all races/ethnicities (see Figure 2). Similarly, there are disparities in mothers who are younger than 20, low income, or less educated. Hospitals interested in health equity initiatives likely have an opportunity in the realm of breastfeeding support that accounts for socioeconomic and cultural differences.

Figure 2. Rates of any breastfeeding in U.S. by race/ethnicity

A summary of recommendations, provider implementation tools, and other resources are summarized for healthcare providers in the AHRQ breastfeeding provider fact sheet. In addition, MVC would like to spotlight those members with ongoing or completed improvement efforts around breastfeeding. If your site has achieved the Baby-Friendly Hospital designation or has tools for addressing patient disparities in breastfeeding, please consider sharing your story with the Coordinating Center for the benefit of the larger collaborative.

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MVC Coordinating Center Team Volunteers at Member Hospital

MVC Coordinating Center Team Volunteers at Member Hospital

As employers and managers endeavor to invest in their company’s culture, there is one often overlooked activity that can positively impact job satisfaction: volunteering. According to a study from Deloitte, cultivating a culture that encourages volunteerism can boost employee morale, workplace atmosphere, and brand perception. It found that 89% of employees believe companies with sponsored volunteer activities offer a better overall work environment and that 70% felt volunteering was a stronger boost to morale than company-sponsored happy hours. Since team culture and the retention of skilled employees have become increasingly important in the current job market, there has never been a better time to help staff feel connected to their community and teammates.

The Michigan Value Collaborative (MVC) experienced some of these benefits recently when the Coordinating Center team spent several hours volunteering together at a local MVC member hospital. This was the first time MVC had organized an official service day for its team. It took place at the Farm at Trinity Health, located at the Trinity Health St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital in Ypsilanti, MI. The MVC team spent several hours weeding, planting, and harvesting vegetables. After harvesting, the MVC team helped wash and pack fresh greens, salad mix, kale, and radishes for the Farm’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) program and patient produce boxes.

Selecting the Farm at Trinity Health as MVC’s service day location was an exciting opportunity due to its many connections to MVC’s priorities. The produce boxes distributed by the Farm help feed members of the community who experience food insecurity or hunger, as well as hospital patients who participate in programs like cardiac rehabilitation (CR). MVC has identified health equity as a strategic priority for 2022 and beyond, and also currently has a Value Coalition Campaign that encourages members to increase patient utilization of CR programs. The MVC team was excited to learn about this direct connection to CR patients and the program’s overall impact on community health. In addition, the Farm at Trinity Health is a participating site in the Washtenaw County Health Department’s Prescription for Health Program, which was a featured topic at MVC’s health equity workgroup earlier this year.

This service day also coincided with an overall shift in how MVC staff members interact. As MVC grew over the past two years, multiple new employees had only ever interacted with coworkers virtually because of the pandemic’s impact on in-person activities. That changed this past spring with MVC’s part-time return to in-person work and some in-person team-building events. The service day was intended to bring teammates together after many months apart to get to know one another, connect, and give back to the wider community.

If you have a story about an impactful program that could be shared with the Collaborative or wish to connect your team with local community volunteering, contact the MVC Coordinating Center for assistance at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com. Learn more about the Farm at Trinity Health (formerly the Farm at St. Joe’s) here.

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Unique Food Assistance Program Bridges Medical and Food Sectors

Unique Food Assistance Program Bridges Medical and Food Sectors

MVC hosted another successful session of its new health equity workgroup last week with a guest presentation by Ariane Donnelly, MPH, RD, Health Promotion Coordinator at the Washtenaw County Health Department. The new health equity workgroup was established in response to a greater strategic focus on health equity within the MVC Coordinating Center as well as widespread interest in this topic within the healthcare field.

The March 16 workgroup focused on the Prescription for Health program, which takes a unique approach to chronic disease management by connecting the medical system with the food sector. It operates by having participating healthcare providers assign “prescriptions” to their patients to eat more fruits and vegetables. These prescriptions can then be “filled” at local participating farmers markets, where patients receive $100 in tokens to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables as well as nutrition education and support. Participants also work with Community Health Workers to set health goals. The program leverages the fact that Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the country, and its abundant farmers markets can be an asset in supporting healthy lifestyles for patients.

Evaluation of the program’s effectiveness has been fruitful. For every year of the program, the health department found a statistically significant increase in self-reported fruit and vegetable intake, often by one cup or serving per day (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

The program was first created in 2008 in response to high levels of food insecurity within communities in Washtenaw County combined with generally low consumption of fruits and vegetables, both of which are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease. Ms. Donnelly pointed out that while many clinics provide nutrition advice, patients face multiple barriers to equitably accessing healthy foods and need additional support. Since its first pilot, the program has continued to grow in total enrollees and economic impact, and it maintained its participation levels throughout the pandemic with a modified version of the program.

Similar programs are in operation in other parts of the state and country as well, such as Food Rx in Chicago and Fresh Prescription in Detroit. Washtenaw County’s Prescription for Health program launched an implementation toolkit in 2016 to help others with starting a similar program in their area.

To learn more about the Prescription for Health program’s operations, impact, and lessons learned, watch the full recording of the workgroup here: https://bit.ly/3IyIsnS. You can also visit the program website for more information: www.washtenaw.org/prescriptionforhealth.

MVC will continue to invite guest speakers with valuable insights on a more equitable health system. The next MVC health equity workgroup will take place on Tuesday, May 10, from 1-2 p.m. If you would like to suggest a topic or speaker for a future workgroup, please contact the MVC Coordinating Center at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com.

Prescription for Health is funded by Saint Joseph Mercy Health System with additional financial support from multiple partners.

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Health Equity Report Refreshed with New Data and Demographics

Health Equity Report Refreshed with New Data and Demographics

With an enhanced strategic focus on health equity, the MVC Coordinating Center was excited to share refreshed versions of its health equity push report this week. The health equity report was first launched in August 2021 in response to growing interest from members as well as widening gaps in health outcomes for patients with a lower socioeconomic status. The purpose of the report is to help members better understand their patient population, and the newest version re-examines some of the original findings. It also adds data to help providers identify the most impacted patients and understand how their care differs from patients with a higher socioeconomic status.

The report distributed this week provided a comparison of Medicaid patients to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and Blue Care Network (BCN) patients, whereas the first iteration compared outcomes of dual-eligible versus non-dual-eligible Medicare patients. Therefore, one change from the previous report is that the patients included are much younger on average. This report incorporated index admissions from 1/1/2018 – 9/30/2021 for BCBSM PPO Commercial and BCN HMO Commercial and from 1/1/2018 – 12/31/2020 for Medicaid. Members who received reports will see comparisons between these two groups for total episode payments, length of stay, 30-day readmission rates, 30-day post-discharge emergency department utilization, and 30-day post-discharge office visit rates.

Despite utilizing different payer data, insurance type was still a good predictor of health outcomes in the report. The Coordinating Center continued to see poorer outcomes across the board for those patients who were publicly rather than privately insured – a finding that is consistent in the research literature as well. These disparities were most pronounced among medical conditions than surgical procedures.

This report continued to look at post-acute care trends but narrowed its focus to office visits specifically. This is because there were significant differences in office visit rates by insurance type in the previous report and skilled nursing facility use was much less relevant within this report's younger patient population. When looking at office visit utilization, the rates were significantly different between BCBSM/BCN and Medicaid patients for both medical conditions (see Figure 1) and surgical procedures. However, the disparity was more pronounced in medical conditions. MVC saw a decrease in office visits in early 2020 across the state that is believed to be related to the pandemic, but visits returned to pre-pandemic rates in the latter half of the year. Furthermore, episodes were excluded from this report if they contained a confirmed diagnosis code of COVID-19 in the first three diagnosis code positions of any inpatient facility claim.

Figure 1. Office Visit Trend Graph from Blinded Report

Another key change to the report was the addition of a patient population demographics table (see Figure 2), which provides the hospital with age, race, zip code, and comorbidity information for Medicaid versus BCBSM/BCN patients. Overall, the most common comorbidity across the state was diabetes, and the Medicaid population was younger on average.

Figure 2. Demographics Table from Blinded Report

Like the first version of the report, there was a conscious decision to exclude comparison groups. This is because the socioeconomic factors of a hospital’s patient population cannot be changed, and there is great diversity between hospitals throughout the state and within geographic regions. For those reasons, benchmarking was not the intention of this report. However, it is important to note that across the state, the data analyzed by the MVC Coordinating Center consistently indicates that Medicaid patients have poorer outcomes than privately insured patients, including longer lengths of stay, higher readmission rates, higher post-discharge emergency department utilization, and lower rates of office visits post-discharge.

The MVC Coordinating Center is eager to support members in improving health equity. Please consider sharing feedback on this report with the Coordinating Center, as well as attending MVC’s newest workgroup on health equity to learn and share with peers. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the Coordinating Center at michiganvaluecollabortative@gmail.com.

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New Health Equity Workgroup Has Successful Launch

New Health Equity Workgroup Has Successful Launch

Health equity has captured the attention of healthcare. It was a top trend for healthcare providers in 2021, and surveys indicate it will be one of the main priorities for large healthcare employers in 2022. It is also a key strategic focus of the MVC Coordinating Center in the years ahead. As such, MVC is building out offerings for its members in this space, which began with the launch of its new health equity report and was followed by a semi-annual meeting dedicated to the topic in October 2021. Most recently, MVC launched a new health equity workgroup, which will continue to meet on a bimonthly basis in 2022.

The first health equity workgroup took place this week featuring speakers from the MSHIELD (Michigan Social Health Interventions to Eliminate Disparities) collaborative—one of the newer teams in the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Collaborative Quality Initiative (CQI) portfolio. MSHIELD Co-Director Dr. John Scott co-presented with MSHIELD Program Manager Carol Gray. They were joined by 72 attendees representing hospital teams, physician organizations, fellow CQIs, and other areas. The presentation focused on the role of MSHIELD in addressing social risk factors in healthcare as well as members’ approaches to health needs screening, referral, and linkage.

The social determinants of health (SDOH) have a tremendous impact on patient health outcomes, resulting in Healthy People 2030 naming it one of its five priorities. With thousands of journal articles confirming the impact of the SDOH, there is now a shared understanding across healthcare providers that this area is a priority. In fact, it affects patient health outcomes significantly more than clinical care (see Figure 1). MSHIELD’s presenters highlighted this fact and used it as an opportunity to define a common language for the discussion. They said health equity is achieved when every person can attain their full health potential and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this because of socially determined circumstances.

Figure 1. Graphic from MSHIELD Presentation

MSHIELD will serve as a link between the healthcare system, the community resources that can reliably serve patients’ social needs, and the communities that are home to those patients. To that end, MSHIELD will help establish partnerships with key healthcare and community entities and promote the exchange of data and services in a way that helps achieve health equity.

Unlike some of the “legacy” CQIs that are clinically focused, MSHIELD will fill a consulting role with other CQIs to help them set and meet goals related to health behaviors and social needs. Since health equity is a multi-faceted issue affecting all areas of health, MSHIELD also has an unlimited population and practice focus. For the time being, however, the speakers identified that MSHIELD is particularly interested in food access, housing instability, and transportation since those are areas with the strongest evidence for impact in a clinical setting.

MSHIELD’s presenters also summarized their findings from an environmental scan of the larger CQI portfolio. Last year they surveyed the other CQIs in the BCBSM Value Partnerships portfolio to identify what types of SDOH data they may collect and how. Of the 16 SDOH domains (see Figure 2), MSHIELD found that almost all CQIs collect data on demographics, insurance status, and health-related behaviors. However, only three CQIs currently collect data related to material hardship (e.g., food insecurity, housing insecurity, transportation, medication affordability, access to technology, childcare, etc.). MSHIELD hopes to help build on what has been collected so far and assist providers and CQIs alike in their pursuit of health equity initiatives.

Figure 2. Domains of the Social Determinants of Health from MSHIELD Presentation

The workgroup concluded with an active discussion about current practices and challenges experienced by providers in identifying, referring, linking, and following up with patients. Representatives from physician organizations and hospitals alike shared examples about how they integrate screening and capture this data, which led to conversations about the technologies used to assist with this process and the value of universal versus targeted screening strategies. Most of the participants who shared their experience expressed that whichever strategy they adopted, there were efforts to make the screening questions accessible for those with language or literacy barriers. Examples of this that were provided by members included translating materials to common languages from their local community and utilizing the professional abilities of social workers on site. There were also discussions about how to best identify resources within a given community for the purposes of referrals, with some thoughtful suggestions about partnering with community health needs assessment teams and social workers from within hospitals.

To hear the full discussion and learn more details about MSHIELD, the full recorded workgroup can be viewed here. MVC looks forward to continuing this health equity conversation on March 16. Register for the next MVC health equity workgroup here. If you would like to receive future MVC workgroup invitations or you have an idea for a future speaker, please contact the Coordinating Center at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com.

Speaker Biographies:

Dr. Scott is an Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Acute Care Surgery at the University of Michigan. His health policy and health services research interests are focused on improving access to timely, affordable, high-quality surgical care for the acutely ill and injured.

Carol Gray leads the overall management, performance, and coordination of the MSHIELD program and team. She has extensive experience managing public health research teams, communicating across and coordinating with multiple partnerships, and linking and engaging with community-based organizations.

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Special Consideration Needed for Older Patients Using Telecare

Special Consideration Needed for Older Patients Using Telecare

When most people think about healthcare, the images that come to mind include a trip to their local provider’s office, lab, or hospital for services such as physicals, blood tests, and procedures. However, medical professionals and their patients are increasingly transitioning to more remote services that leverage our advances in communication technologies, resulting in the burgeoning “tele” world of healthcare. But are these services reaching everyone?

Telemedicine, telehealth, and telecare are three examples of remote, interactive services that allow patients to receive healthcare from within their own homes. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they in fact refer to different aspects of healthcare delivery. Telemedicine applies to physicians who use technology to support the delivery of medical, diagnostic, or treatment-related services. Telehealth is like telemedicine but applies to a broader collection of providers, such as nurses or pharmacists. Telecare (see Figure 1) is generally more consumer-oriented by providing the patient with technology to manage their own care safely from home, such as health apps or digital monitoring devices.

Figure 1. Telecare Slide from MVC Workgroup Presentation

The adoption of “tele” services saw incredible growth in 2020 in response to the pandemic. A report found that Medicare telehealth visits increased 63-fold recently, from 840,000 in 2019 to 52.7 million visits in 2020. However, now that adoption of these services (and the platforms needed to host them) are more commonplace, providers are asking whether it benefits their most vulnerable patients and who may be left behind.

These questions drove the discussion of the most recent MVC workgroup on chronic disease management. Over the course of the session, attendees were particularly interested in how telecare improves elderly care, and whether patients over the age of 65 could adequately access such services. For those older adults utilizing telecare, evidence from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic identified convenience and affordability as telecare’s primary strengths. In addition, research evidence suggests that the two most effective telecare interventions in this population are automated vital sign monitoring and telephone follow-up by nurses.

Some of the challenges often cited for this population include lack of appropriate internet access or devices, limited digital literacy, medical conditions that may impede participation (i.e., hearing or vision impairments, dementia, etc.), and the need to regularly monitor vitals in very high-risk patients. Although the authors compiling these challenges specifically reference older adults, they could just as easily apply to people experiencing poverty, people with disabilities, and people with more limited language and literacy skills.

Some recommended strategies to address common challenges include tablet delivery services, “mobile medical assistants” who perform video set-up for the patient, assistance from an on-site caregiver, practice or “mock” video visits prior to the appointment date, partnerships with community health workers to support or train patients in their homes, and providing self-monitoring devices. Other simple considerations include the size of the text displayed on the page (use larger text to enhance readability), providing adequate instructions in advance and in multiple languages, and engaging experts in user experience design.

In addition to these considerations, some researchers suggest that, in general, the adoption of new technologies can be predicted in part by Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Theory. One study incorporating this theory found that the chances of telecare adoption were highest for three types of older adults: those already receiving long-term or nursing care, those living alone, and those who have fixed daily telecare points of contact.

Increased integration of technology in healthcare is inevitable as advancements continue and we shift to a more digital world. Since the number of people in the U.S. who are age 65 or older will more than double over the next 40 years, it is imperative that older adults are not left behind when transitioning to such services. Rather than fear the challenges, researchers and practitioners are seeking ways to find solutions and help all patients benefit from healthcare access within their own homes.

The MVC Coordinating Center encourages its members to collaborative with one another to benefit from peers’ success stories and lessons learned. If your hospital or physician organization has developed an age-friendly telecare protocol, please consider sharing your story with the MVC Coordinating Center at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com. To catch up on the recent MVC workgroup discussion about telecare, watch the chronic disease management workgroup recording here.

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October 2021 MVC Semi-Annual: Virtual Meeting Recap

October 2021 MVC Semi-Annual: Virtual Meeting Recap

The Michigan Value Collaborative (MVC) held its second virtual semi-annual meeting of 2021 on Friday, October 22nd. A total of 221 leaders from a variety of healthcare disciplines attended Friday’s virtual meeting, representing 70 different hospitals and 23 physician organizations (POs) from across the state of Michigan. These participants came together to hear about the planned adjustments to the MVC Component of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) Pay-for-Performance (P4P) Program for Program Year 2021 in light of COVID-19 and to discuss “the social risk and health equity dilemma” - a growing priority within the healthcare system generally, as well as within the MVC Coordinating Center.

MVC’s Director, Dr. Hari Nathan, started Friday’s meeting with an update from the MVC Coordinating Center, welcoming new collaborative members Munson Healthcare Manistee and Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital, and MVC’s newest Coordinating Center team members: Jana Stewart, Kristen Palframan, and Carla Novak. Dr. Nathan also highlighted some of the recent successes achieved by the Coordinating Center, including the launch of MVC’s new health equity report, increased custom analytic reporting, and the completion of over 50 virtual site visits with members this year.

Dr. Mike Thompson, MVC’s Co-Director, then shared information on the MVC Component of the BCBSM P4P Program with attendees. In investigating the impact of COVID-19 throughout the state in 2020, the MVC Coordinating Center found that 223 of the 25,627 (0.9%) episodes included in the P4P conditions from the first half of 2020 had a code for confirmed COVID-19 infection in the index event or other inpatient settings. The MVC Component of the BCBSM P4P program rewards hospitals for either making improvements over their baseline episode payment or for being less expensive than peer hospitals. The MVC team found that episodes of COVID-19 patients are generally more expensive than typical episodes. In addition, COVID-19 was not present in the baseline year of 2018 that hospitals stand to be evaluated against. Therefore, with approval from BCBSM, Dr. Thompson announced that, for Program Year 2021 only, the Coordinating Center will be removing any 2020 episode with a COVID-19 diagnosis on an inpatient facility claim during the 30-day episode if the COVID-19 ICD code is one of the first three diagnosis codes on the claim (see Figure 1). Looking ahead, a summary of participant selections for Program Years 2023 and 2024 were also shared, showing joint replacement as the most common condition selection, closely followed by congestive heart failure (CHF).

Figure 1. MVC Slide on Updates to MVC Component of BCBSM P4P Program for PY21

At MVC’s last semi-annual meeting in May, the Coordinating Center announced that Michigan Medicaid data had been added to MVC data sources and that the MVC Coordinating Center would be spending the subsequent months validating the data and getting it ready for member use. This work has now concluded and MVC’s Manager of Data Analytics shared what this new data source looks like. Michigan Medicaid now represents MVC’s third-largest data source, accounting for over 319,000 episodes since 2015, covering 256,889 beneficiaries, and making up 19.4% of all MVC episodes.  With this new addition, MVC data sources now comprise over 80% of Michigan’s insured population, all of which are available for members to utilize on the MVC registry.

To set the scene for our guest speakers, MVC Analyst Bonnie Cheng provided an overview of MVC’s recent health equity report (see Figure 2), highlighting racial, ethnic, and dual-eligibility variation across Michigan. The MVC Coordinating Center will look to build on this new report and undertake new activities in this area to support member activity moving forward. This will be supported by the Michigan Social Health Interventions to Eliminate Disparities (MSHIELD) collaborative – a new group recently launched as part of the Collaborative Quality Initiative (CQI) portfolio. With this in mind, MVC was joined by MSHIELD Program Manager Carol Gray to introduce this new collaborative and describe how MSHIELD will seek to interface with the health system and local communities to drive change (see Figure 3).

Figure 2. MVC Slide on New MVC Health Equity Report

Figure 3. MSHIELD Slide on MSHIELD's Role as a CQI

After hearing from MSHIELD, MVC welcomed guest speaker Dr. Nicole J. Franklin from McLaren Flint hospital. Dr. Franklin provided insight as to how McLaren Flint has devoted time and effort to bridge the gap between health and social care. This placed particular emphasis on the use of six representative sub-committees (employee resource, patient outcomes, community outreach, employee education, talent acquisition, and cultural calendar) to achieve McLaren Flint’s commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable environment where everyone is valued and empowered for success. Representing the Integrated Health Association (IHA), Leah Corneail shared how IHA has worked to actively screen and address patient social influencers of health (SIOH). This emphasized the importance of collecting actionable data through IHA’s SIOH questionnaire and the use of these data through an interactive population health dashboard (see Figure 4). The last guest speaker of the day was Melissa Gary, Community Liaison for Great Lakes Physicians Organization (GLPO). As well as providing an overview of GLPO, Melissa detailed how the organization has used a social determinants of health questionnaire and monthly tracking log to address the needs of over 2000 patients in 2020 alone.

Figure 4. IHA Slide on Social Influencers of Health Dashboard

To conclude Friday’s meeting, MVC Communications Specialist Jana Stewart provided a synopsis of the day and highlighted key upcoming activities. The slides from Friday’s meeting are available here and a recording of the meeting is available here. If you have questions about anything that was discussed at the semi-annual or are interested in finding out more about MVC’s offerings, please reach out to the MVC Coordinating Center (michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com). In the meantime, we look forward to seeing you all in person again soon.

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MVC Coordinating Center Launches Health Equity Report

MVC Coordinating Center Launches Health Equity Report

As hospitals begin to identify lessons learned since the start of the pandemic, providers are keenly aware of the prevalence and exacerbation of existing health inequities. Despite the fact that many providers are increasingly interested in addressing the social determinants of health (SDOH) and equitable access to care, communities of color and other minorities that are statistically more impacted by SDOH and socioeconomic status (SES) have endured even wider gaps in health outcomes and care this past year. For many hospitals and physician organizations, the way forward requires the application of a health equity or social risk lens across the board, so that basic healthcare and quality improvement decision-making can be maximized for all patient populations, not just those with fewer social risk factors. The MVC Coordinating Center is, therefore, proud to have released its first MVC Health Equity Report to its membership on Wednesday morning.

MVC began developing metrics for its membership in this area over the past year so providers might better understand where inequities are materializing within the four walls of their hospitals and beyond. One popular method for identifying low-SES patients is by determining where someone lives and applying population-level metrics to the individual. Examples of this would be using the Area Deprivation Index (ADI) or Social Vulnerability Index (SVI). Both indexes are based on census tract data and provide SES characteristics about a population within a specific geographic location (i.e., a census tract), including risk factors such as poverty, education level, transportation access, and housing security. However, in developing the MVC Health Equity Report, the MVC Coordinating Center elected to utilize a patient-level metric of SES that is compatible with MVC claims data. As a result, the report identifies low-SES patients using dual-eligibility status.

Dual-eligible beneficiaries are patients that are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. In the MVC Health Equity Report, dual eligibility is defined as having been eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid at any point during the year of the index admission and is limited to patients that were at least 65 years old at the time of admission. Medicaid eligibility is a good indicator of SES when using claims data since it is income-based, and studies have shown that there is a strong association between low-income status and adverse health outcomes. Dual eligibility allows MVC analysts to identify Medicaid-eligible patients within its more extensive Medicare data set for analyses. Medicare data on the MVC registry currently includes claims data from 1/1/2015 through 9/30/2020. The resulting reports prepared for members focuses on episodes occurring between 2017 and 2020, or between 2017 and 2019 if the circumstances of 2020 resulted in unusual case counts by facility.

In developing this report, there was a conscious decision to exclude any sort of comparison group alongside each individual hospital's metrics. This is because the socioeconomic factors of a hospital’s patient population cannot be changed, and there is great diversity between hospitals throughout the state and within geographic regions. For those reasons, benchmarking was not the intention of this report. However, it is important to note that across the state, the data analyzed by the MVC Coordinating Center consistently indicates that dual-eligible patients have poorer outcomes than their non-dual-eligible counterparts, including longer lengths of stay, higher readmission rates, higher post-discharge emergency department utilization, lower rates of office visits post-discharge, higher rates of post-discharge outpatient procedures, and higher utilization of skilled nursing facilities. Blinded sample graphs for length of stay (Figure 1) and readmission rates (Figure 2) were created using data from three distinct, large hospitals in order to showcase some of these differences.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Members receiving reports will see a variety of graphs depicting, for example, total episode payment trends, 30-day readmission rate trends, and post-acute care utilization. Also provided is a table outlining a hospital or region’s highest volume of conditions within its dual-eligible population (see Figure 3 for a blinded sample). The purpose of this table is to help members better understand the proportion of dual-eligible patients at their hospital and the prevalence of various conditions within that population. It will also help members to better understand their report overall by identifying the conditions and procedures driving the various metrics included within it.

Figure 3.

MVC is eager to do more in this space in the months ahead. With the recently added Michigan Medicaid data on the MVC registry, the Coordinating Center has a new opportunity to more closely examine the types of disparities that are prevalent in healthcare. Additionally, with the addition of 13 rural or critical access hospitals to the collaborative in the past 12 months, the Coordinating Center aims to expand its metrics outside of the episode structure to examine population health metrics. This will allow for better understanding about healthcare delivery and how outcomes differ in rural regions compared to urban.

The MVC Coordinating Center wants to hear feedback from its members. With the addition of Medicaid data, we are working hard to develop more metrics and reports that focus on health equity. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the MVC Coordinating Center at michiganvaluecollabortative@gmail.com.