U.S. government leaders are looking for ways to better provide accessible, value-based healthcare at an affordable cost to patients across the nation, and they’re looking to Intermountain Healthcare as a model. Utah congressman Ben McAdams and Florida congresswoman and former Health and Human Services secretary Donna Shalala, who served under President Bill Clinton, came to Intermountain in July looking for ideas they can spread to other parts of the country.
“Nothing’s more important for me than finding innovative solutions that help Utah families with their healthcare costs,” Rep. McAdams said at a news conference held in an operating room at Intermountain Medical Center during their visit.
Rep. Shalala, who was involved in starting the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to provide healthcare coverage to low-income children, said she came to Utah to learn about Intermountain’s value-based healthcare—a rarity, she said, that only operates in a “very few places” in the world.
“We could argue about universal care and how we get there, but the real focus ought to be high-quality care for everyone at an affordable price,” Rep. Shalala said. “Those of us in government need to pay attention to what’s happening in the private sector. Intermountain is one of the places where we can learn the most about high-quality care at an affordable cost.”
Intermountain CEO Marc Harrison, MD, shared five examples of things Intermountain is doing to improve access and reduce costs at the news conference:
- Reimagining primary care. Dr. Harrison said about 25,000 patient members are enrolled in the team-based care model that focuses on preventive care to keep patients well. So far, the model has produced a 60 percent decrease in hospital admissions, a 35 percent decrease in emergency department admissions, and a 20 percent decrease in per member per month costs, he said.
- Civica Rx. The not-for-profit generic drug company banded together by Intermountain and other healthcare systems and philanthropists is fighting the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs by providing low-cost generic drugs to participating hospitals.
- Mental health integration. Intermountain addresses mental health needs as part of each patient’s primary care visits. “If we can take care of people’s psyche at the same time as we take care of their physical body, it keeps people at home, out of the hospital, out of the emergency department, at work, and with their families, and with substantial savings,” Dr. Harrison said.
- Addressing the social determinants of health. Dr. Harrison said things like stable housing, food, transportation, and employment play a major role in people’s health, and only 10 percent of a person’s health is based on what’s done at hospitals or doctor’s offices.
- Telehealth. Intermountain is a leader in providing telehealth support services to rural hospitals across the Intermountain West. Programs like Neonatal Telehealth, TeleCritical Care, TeleStroke, and TeleTrauma help raise the level of care at rural hospitals and keep families from having to travel long distances to receive care at larger hospitals. Plus it reduces costs. Dr. Harrison said rural hospitals across the country have closed or are at risk of closing, but not in Utah thanks in part to telehealth.
“I think we can learn from some of the successes that are happening here in Utah and take them to other places in the country,” Rep. McAdams said.
Read more about the congressional visit in the Deseret News.