Coordinated Care Management

June 07, 2012

IBM and Premier Team Up to Provide Virtual Health Community to Connect Healthcare Providers Nationwide

You’ve heard of virtual classrooms or virtual doctor appointments. Now there’s the virtual healthcare community. But it will better the health of real people.

About 80 percent of all healthcare today is delivered through individual doctors. But until now, there has been no way for many different hospitals around the country to share information and connect with each other at a local and national level. Premier, a hospital-owned alliance of 2,500 hospitals, announced with IBM today that they have partnered to create one of the world’s largest virtual care systems to give local doctors and hospitals better tools and insight into treating patients.

Launched by the Premier healthcare performance improvement alliance, the PremierConnect technology platform will allow more than 100,000 clinicians, supply chain leaders, hospital executives and other healthcare providers nationwide to interact with “communities of common interest.” PremierConnect has been set up to support the new ways of delivering care now required by health reform, such as accountable care organizations, connecting care across hospitals, physician offices, outpatient clinics and more, with the goal of managing patient populations for improved outcomes and better health.

The virtual community’s biggest benefit is the ability to link alliance members with data and strategies on thousands of patient outcomes, all over the country. Let’s say you’re a doctor in Florida with a patient with a disease resistant to treatment. But a physician in Connecticut has treated a similar condition. Voila – Here is the answer, and the person to talk to. The point is to improve the ways in which healthcare is delivered, and not so surprisingly, reduce costs.

Virtual communities have been around for a while, but in the past, they were mostly used for emotional support, according to a study of 122 women on how stress relates to physical health systems. The sense of community helped these women. 

PremierConnect will also allow providers to use Premier’s clinical, financial and operational comparative databases, “containing one in four patient admissions and close to $43 billion in purchasing data,” in addition to its quality, safety, labor and supply chain applications, helping providers make decisions based on a combination of quality, safety and cost information, no longer having to do it themselves.

“Health systems today need an integrated look into utilization, costs, efficiency and quality,” said Michael D. Connelly, M.A., J.D., FACHE, president and CEO at Catholic Health Partners, which works in partnership with Premier. “With this information we can further build out the predictive capabilities that will help us find opportunities and enact corrective actions before they affect patients. This initiative is a critical foundational piece to our mission and the mission of the Premier alliance to improve the health of our communities.” Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) are financially rewarded by the federal government for better clinical outcomes. ACOs do indeed turn old health concepts on their head. These new organizations make the people who actually provide care “accountable” for the quality and the cost of that care, according to Kelly Devers and Robert Berenson.

In the past, insurers were looked to in order to initiate change, and were the ones ultimately responsible, according to Devers and Berenson.

ACOs imply that it is providers – not insurers – who are best positioned to make the changes that will address the cost and improve the delivery of healthcare, Devers and Berenson wrote.“Leaders of healthcare systems will be able to easily make data-driven, evidence-based decisions that improve performance and while making their communities healthier places to live,” said Premier president and CEO, Susan DeVore. “They’ll know which patients are driving undesirable outcomes, which physicians have the highest costs or the poorest performance, and why these scenarios are occurring.”

Edited by Braden Becker
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