Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

June 15, 2014

Physicians unite to save money, reduce waste

TRAVERSE CITY — More than 230 physicians formed a landmark network aimed at designing a new model for healthcare delivery in northern Michigan.

The Northern Michigan Health Network involves doctors from Petoskey, Traverse City, Manistee and near Baldwin. The group’s goal is to reduce the government’s healthcare costs for Medicare patients while improving overall care. They intend to do so through increased case management and information-sharing between doctors.

If successful, doctors will be eligible for sharing 50 percent of any realized savings to the Medicare program.

“It’s getting us from the traditional fee-for-service model and transitions us to a fee-for-value model,” said Marie Hooper, executive director for the Northern Michigan Health Network.

The network largely is the result of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and its stated goal of reducing health care costs. Neurologist Diane Donley said money can be saved in part simply by identifying unnecessary, redundant medical tests and doctor visits for patients. For example, Donley said sometimes a patient with a thyroid condition might see multiple doctors and end up with repeated medical tests.

Donley said doctors can identify those unnecessary tests and eliminate them by sharing information with one another and by relying on a more intensive case management system.

“If you are being taken care of by this consortium of physicians, you still have the right to see any physician, but our group of physicians is committed to trying to coordinate your care better,” Donley said.

Patients can choose whether or not they allow Northern Michigan Health Network to see their Medicare claims, which will be a mechanism for reducing redundancy. Nationally, a small percentage of patients opt not to participate. Hooper said patient privacy will be protected. The coalition also seeks to place special emphasis on patient wellness and preventative care — two measures that can greatly reduce long-term healthcare costs for the system.

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