The health care industry is, by nature, one whose success is built on change and evolution. It is our ability to adapt and innovate that makes this field both rewarding and resilient. What other industries might see as a challenge, we view as an opportunity. From our dedication to groundbreaking medical research to our steadfast commitment to finding ways to improve patient care, Penn Medicine is always at the forefront of change.
This principle also applies to how we deliver care. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the value of care we deliver to our patients, boosting quality and outcomes while reducing costs. Whether it is improving access to specialized services for patients in their communities, reducing unnecessary testing, offering unique treatments, or providing telemedicine services to patients in their homes, we want our patients to feel that every interaction they have with Penn Medicine provides exceptional value.
Our value innovations also extend to our business arrangements. That’s why we’re excited about the new five-year contract we signed this spring with Independence Blue Cross. A first for the region and among the first of its kind nationwide, the deal calls for unprecedented levels of shared accountability for cost and quality, the exchange of data, and strengthening the coordination of patient care in all our endeavors.
The cornerstone of our new agreement is a robust collaboration to reduce hospital readmissions, a commitment that Penn Medicine is backing up with a “30-day warranty.” If a Blue Cross member is readmitted to one of our facilities within 30 days of an admission, Penn Medicine will take on the cost of that readmission. As a result, we will be devoting even more resources to keep patients safe and well at home after they’re discharged from the hospital. Among some of our efforts: identifying patients that are at higher risk for readmission, telemedicine monitoring for new moms after they leave the hospital, and prescription drug education and adherence programs.
Managing this system-wide effort is made possible by our investment in electronic medical records and the PennChart rollout earlier this year. Our clinical staff in outpatient practices and hospitals throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey can already communicate with each other in real-time. Going forward, this same system and the data it contains will enable us to evaluate patterns of care, admission, or drug prescribing, as well as share findings and best practices with Blue Cross.
Blue Cross and Penn Medicine have a history of value-based innovations. With our agreement to fund coverage of care in the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, which opened in late 2009 as one of the first proton centers affiliated with an academic medical center, we moved beyond the typical hospital-insurer negotiation over when and how to integrate new technology into care plans. Before the center even opened, we had shared therapy protocols with Blue Cross and developed a price parity plan that resulted in far broader coverage – and new, lifesaving options – for patients receiving cancer care here than would normally be the case when a new technology comes online.
That type of cooperation will continue under this new agreement. For example, as we develop more care bundles — a fixed price for a regimen such as a 90-day hip replacement — Penn Medicine will have more freedom to apply treatments based on patient needs and outcomes. We won’t need insurer approval for each new step – which will save time, money, and increases continuity of care when time is of the essence.
In addition to our partnership with Blue Cross, our clinical teams continue to work together to improve patient outcomes and value across the health system. Our Value Operations Committee is focused on coordinating our value-based efforts across our care settings, including inpatient, ambulatory, and home care. Members of our recently formed Penn Value Improvement team are collaborating to identify projects throughout UPHS which have exceptional value improvement potential, such as reducing the frequency and severity of hospital-acquired aspiration pneumonia. We will continue to launch more projects like this in the coming months.
The health care industry is indeed evolving, and Penn Medicine will continue not only on that path, but on one where we’re constantly innovating and setting standards for all others to follow.