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New Healthcare Model Saves Money for Utah Patients

While the cost of healthcare continues to go up around the country, a new delivery and payment model in Utah is saving money for patients.

The cost of medical care per person in the US is estimated to be nearly 14,000 thousand dollars  a year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  And those costs are projected to climb more than 5 percent per year through 2022. But Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah has been experimenting with a new model designed to drive down those costs. Regence Executive Medical Director Mark Hiatt testified before the state Health Reform Task Force last week.

“My diagnosis is that the healthcare costs in the state and this nation are unsustainable,” he said. “Truly we need transformative medicine, and not just a band aid.”

In January 2013, Regence formed a partnership with Central Utah Clinic – a group of independent physicians - to pilot a new model of healthcare delivery and payment. They call it the Total Cost of Care Incentive Model.  The idea is that Regence gives the physicians cost and quality data on their members. With this data, the physicians are able to make more informed decisions on what the best and most cost-effective course of action is for their patients. In the first year of the program, Hiatt says there have been significant savings.

“Lesson learned is really that you can both simultaneously improve quality and also bring down costs,” Hiatt says. “After one year, we found that nearly a million healthcare dollars were not spent.”

Scott Barlow, CEO of Central Utah Clinic told the state task force that the quality of care improved on most measures, and patients seemed to be happy with it.

“This also had a fairly robust tool set tracking patient satisfaction as well, and saw a dramatic improvement in patient satisfaction, which was in our mind another metric of success,” Barlow says.  

Regence has formed partnerships with other providers around the state and is working to expand the model.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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