HHS Funds Health Innovations Aimed at Improving Care, Saving Money

HHS on Friday announced 17 new recipients of health care innovation grants in California, the largest of which was a $19 million award for the Pacific Business Group on Health to expand its coordinated care project.

Nationwide, 81 innovation grants were dished out. Last month, HHS issued 26 innovation awards, including four in California. In all, California received 21 of the 107 grants.

“This means a significant expansion of something where we’ve seen good results so far,” said David Lansky, CEO of the Pacific Business Group on Health. PBGH received $19 million from HHS to expand the Intensive Outpatient Care Program in collaboration with the California Quality Collaborative, a network of providers in California.

“We did a version of this in Humboldt County, and we had very good results,” Lansky said.

The idea is to assign a nurse as a care manager to Medicare patients with multiple chronic conditions with the goal being to improve care and to change the financial incentives for care. Fostering a team effort to manage and better control multiple conditions will reduce costs, Lansky said.

“The reason these patients are so expensive is that they have multiple chronic conditions and they fall through the cracks,” Lansky said. “When, really, many of these things can be managed so that they don’t end up making multiple trips to the emergency room, or their conditions get so bad that it becomes very expensive to treat them.”

Once those patients’ conditions are stabilized and better controlled, he said, the cost savings are dramatic.

“We’ve found this saves about 20% so far,” Lansky said, “so it translates very quickly into savings.”

PBGH expects to expand that program to 17 more medical groups across the state, serving about 23,000 Medicare patients, Lansky said.

“This is a way of taking people who are not getting good care, and coordinating their care so that their health improves, so it’s important as a model,” he said.  “This is a model, I think, that can be replicated in other models like it, that are becoming more common.”

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