Frank Sardone: Health care reform already happening now in Michigan

Published 9:25 am Wednesday, August 5, 2009

National health care reform is the talk of Washington. And as businesses and individuals struggle with rising health care costs, and more Americans lose insurance coverage, there is increasing discussion about a government solution.

As government drafts health reform legislation, it should look to Michigan for examples of voluntary reforms that are not only well established – they are working.
The solution to keeping health insurance affordable is to lower health care costs. In Michigan, our system of 144 nonprofit hospitals is leading this effort through the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) Keystone Center for Patient Safety & Quality, an initiative the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services recently labeled “a national success story.”

The MHA Keystone Center involves collaboration among hospitals statewide and is strongly supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Active now for six years, the MHA Keystone Center projects are aimed at improving patient safety and the quality of care delivered at the hospital bedside.

The MHA Keystone Center’s first major initiative, MHA Keystone: ICU (intensive care unit), has significantly reduced medical errors in hospital ICUs resulting in nearly 1,800 lives saved, 129,000 excess hospital days avoided and $247 million saved in just four years.

Recently, Blue Cross endowed an additional $6 million to finance continued and new MHA Keystone Center initiatives. Current MHA Keystone Center programs are focused on reducing the number of hospital-associated infections; improving care for mothers giving birth and their newborn babies; and improving emergency room care and flow. And the MHA Keystone Center continues to work to identify new opportunities that will improve the quality of care delivered in Michigan hospitals.

The Michigan Blues are a key to the MHA Keystone Center’s success. Blue Cross recognizes that by investing dollars to allow all Michigan hospitals to participate in this work – no matter how small or large the hospital – Michigan is achieving system-wide reform without the need for a government mandate.

The MHA Keystone Center collaboration works because of the non-competitive nature of the initiatives. Hospitals and medical professionals share evidence-based best practices to prevent infection, reduce complications and hospital inpatient days, improve patient safety, and reduce health care costs. They do it because the health care system as a whole – and the people it cares for – benefit.

In the MHA Keystone Center, we see concrete evidence that collaborative, coordinated efforts to improve care delivery not only save lives, but reduces costs. These kinds of initiatives can ultimately lead to the provision of sustainable, affordable health care coverage for all.

This is real health care reform, happening right here in Michigan. The MHA Keystone Center exemplifies a successful health care solution and offers an operating model that is worthy of national replication.

As the country seeks to transform our system of care, our national leaders and local elected officials should recognize the work already under way and support similar efforts to deliver needed and cost-saving change.

By Frank Sardone, President & CEO, Bronson Healthcare Group, Inc. and Chair of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association Board of Trustees and Daniel J. Loepp, President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.