Hospital Mergers and Healthcare Costs, and more...

Hospital Mergers May Actually Reduce Costs

A new report authored by Charles River Associates presents evidence that hospital mergers – often described as harmful to competition – may in fact reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of care.
The study found that mergers can help struggling hospitals achieve savings through coordinated purchasing of supplies and investments in expensive health IT upgrades, among other benefits. Charles River found that due to increased scale, acquisitions can reduce a hospital’s annual operating expenses by 2.3%. Not only are costs reduced, but revenues are as well, the study found, meaning that “savings that accrue to merging hospitals are passed on to patients and their health plans.”
On the quality side, Charles River found that hospitals that merged showed statistically significant declines in readmission and mortality rates. The study highlights how scale is critical to maintaining and enhancing the infrastructure necessary to address social determinants of health, adopt population health strategies, and promote value-driven care.
The study is especially timely for Massachusetts. The Health Policy Commission, meeting this Wednesday, September 11, has announced that it is undertaking its own retrospective review of the material changes and mergers that have occurred in the commonwealth to help determine if they have resulted in the cost savings and improved quality that the applicants have predicted.

State Receives Funding as Opioid-Fighting Efforts Continue

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week announced that it was distributing the first $301 million of a three-year $900 million grant to states to assist them in fighting the opioid crisis. Massachusetts Department of Public Health received $7.5 million. The CDC money is aimed at tracking overdose data, among other initiatives.
At the same time, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released $932 million in State Opioid Response grants; $35.9 million of that total is coming to Massachusetts in what SAMHSA calls “flexible funding to state governments to support prevention, treatment, and recovery services.”
Massachusetts continues its efforts to help curb opioid use in the state. Last Wednesday, the legislature’s Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee heard testimony on a number of bills relating to the issue. MHA has recently testified on a number of bills relating to substance use disorder treatment and harm reduction. For example, MHA supports HB1748/SB1160, which would help to increase the number of providers equipped to prescribe or administer various forms of medication for addiction treatment. MHA also supports SB1150/HB1732, which extends the currently mandated 14 days of insurance coverage for various forms of treatment to 30 days. Research indicates that longer stays in addiction treatment can be beneficial to those suffering from substance use disorder.

The New State-Hospital Medicaid Contract is Delayed One Month

MassHealth has extended the acute hospital 2019 RFA one additional month through October 31, 2019. The 2020 RFA is expected to begin November 1, 2019. The RFA is the main contract between hospitals serving Medicaid patients and the state. The delay gives the state more time to process concerns MHA and the hospital community have raised regarding recent MassHealth reimbursement rate reductions and other issues.

MHA’s Noga Selected for State Quality Measure Taskforce

MHA’s VP of Clinical Affairs Patricia Noga, R.N., PhD, has been selected to serve on the Executive Office of Health & Human Services Quality Measure Alignment Taskforce. The taskforce advises the state on identifying population-based quality measure sets for use in alternative payment models, MassHealth accountable care organizations, and the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program, among other uses. 
The healthcare sector has repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that a variety of quality measure sets exist, oftentimes requiring duplicative reporting, and generating confusion among the consumers they are intended to help. Aside from reporting to federal agencies, hospitals also report quality metrics to state agencies, health insurance companies, and independent groups.

MHQP Celebrates 25-Year Anniversary Next April

Save the date for the Massachusetts Health Quality Partners’ 25th anniversary celebration scheduled for Monday, April 6, 2020, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. More information, including sponsorship opportunities, is here.

TeamSTEPPS Master Training Class

Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety (TeamSTEPPS) is an evidence-based set of teamwork tools, aimed at optimizing patient outcomes by improving communication and teamwork skills among healthcare professionals. It has become the gold standard in healthcare team training. The class takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 24 & Wednesday, Sept. 25, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the MHA Conference Center, Burlington, Mass.
The Master Training Course is a two-day, in-person course with a train-the-trainer approach. It educates participants on TeamSTEPPS fundamentals, provides them with resources for training others, and ensures that they gain the knowledge and training required to implement and coach the behaviors needed to achieve positive results. Developed by the Department of Defense's Patient Safety Program in collaboration with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, TeamSTEPPS provides higher quality, safer patient care by producing highly effective medical teams that optimize the use of information, people, and resources to achieve the best clinical outcomes for patients; increasing team awareness and clarifying team roles and responsibilities; resolving conflicts and improving information sharing; and eliminating barriers.
The instructor for this program is Karyn Baum, M.D., professor of medicine & interim CMO at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. We encourage hospitals to send three or more individuals to the trainings. Learn more and register by visiting here.

John LoDico, Editor