Risk and Reward in Collaborative Care

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , April 15, 2013
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This article appears in the April 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Collaborative care, which holds the promise of bringing together stakeholders to lower the cost and improve the quality of patient care, is a relatively new business model that is being embraced by providers and health plans. While there is a high level of confidence among healthcare leaders that collaborative care will improve population health, the potential for such a model to deliver cost
savings is a concern.

According to the results of the 2013 HealthLeaders Media Collaborative Care Survey, 69% of healthcare leaders are in at least the early stages of considering participation in a formal collaborative care model, with 25% already participating in one. "Collaborative care is definitely on everyone's radar," says John Katsianis, senior vice president and CFO of DeKalb Regional Health System, a two-hospital system in Decatur, Ga. "When you think about HCAHPS and readmission penalties … we have the most money at risk if we don't perform."

Indeed, respondents are setting a fast pace of adoption with 78% expecting to have their collaborative care model fully operational by 2014.

As is often the case with any major change, the implementation of a new system takes time and often involves cultural shifts at all staffing levels. So it is welcome news that survey respondents indicate their organizations recognize the importance of C-suite involvement in the pursuit of collaborative care. Some 55% have assigned C-suite–level business leadership and 44% have assigned C-suite–level clinical leadership to manage their model.

Our report advisors suggest that healthcare leaders are embracing collaborative care because they figure just about anything will be better than the system in effect now. "It's a proposed solution, a proposed alternative to fee-for-service," says Richard Lopez, MD, the chief medical officer at Atrius Health, a Newton, Mass.–based nonprofit alliance of six medical groups with more than 1,000 physicians serving about 1 million patients, as well as a home health and hospice agency. "We know where traditional fee-for-service has the healthcare market: ever-increasing healthcare costs and ever-increasing utilization. We know that system."

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