A recent Kaiser Health News (KHN) article highlights a theme we’ve written about previously: the convergence of quality and efficiency in healthcare. Here is an excerpt from the KHN article:
Treating a pneumonia case at the Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah averaged $10,435 in 2008. Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, on the other hand, charged the average pneumonia patient $20,419, nearly twice as much.
What shocked hospital administrators most were the results for quality. Instead of higher cost hospitals delivering better care, the evidence pointed to just the opposite: The higher cost hospitals were less likely to meet benchmarks for quality. Theda Clark attained 95.5 percent of the quality goals outlined for treating a pneumonia case in 2008. Sacred Heart met just 90.5 percent of the standards.
Publishing the cost and quality data has had a far-reaching impact on the state, whose health care system is now considered among the best in the country. It gave hospitals with low quality ratings objective feedback for improving their performance. And the rankings motivated high cost hospitals to begin looking for ways to eliminate expensive but medically questionable procedures that didn’t improve outcomes.
Most important of all, it created a constituency – informed consumers – who were now armed with data that allowed them to pressure local hospitals to improve their performance. “People make purchasing decisions for everything from banking to refrigerators based on cost and quality information, but that is not how it currently works in health care,” said Walter Rugland, chairman of ThedaCare, at a House Energy & Commerce subcommittee on health hearing held last Thursday. “In Wisconsin, we believe we have fixed that problem.”
At least three bills introduced in the House this session but not included in health care reform would make a start on replicating the Wisconsin system nationally. But they don’t go far enough because they focus exclusively on price, and not on the quality side of the ledger.
Rugland spent much of his career at Milliman and is volunteer chair of four nonprofit hospitals in the ThedaCare network.