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Michigan physicians save Medicare $45.5 million, while improving care for Michiganders

New data on POM ACO performance show largest savings to date, and fifth straight year of improvement in quality of care

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For the fifth year in a row, ten Michigan physician organizations have improved care for more than 113,800 Medicare participants across the state, while making a positive difference in the cost of that care.

In fact, the Medicare system saved $45.5 million on the care of those Michiganders in 2017. At the same time, that care met higher quality standards than ever before.

The data, just released by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, show the results of a concerted effort by the nearly 6,000 physicians and other providers who take part in the statewide Physician Organization of Michigan Accountable Care Organization, LLC (POM ACO).

POM ACO is the fourth largest of the nation’s 472 shared-savings ACOs, as measured by the number of traditional Medicare beneficiaries assigned to its providers. It is one of the few ACOs to have such a long track record of both savings and high quality of care every year under the Medicare Shared Savings Program created under the Affordable Care Act.

In 2017, the providers in POM ACO achieved a quality score of 93 percent on the measures set out by the federal government. That score encompasses the providers’ performance on everything from preventive health checks to use of computerized health record systems.

“We are proud of the hard work POM ACO providers have done to help ‘bend the cost curve’ while maximizing quality of care for Michigan Medicare beneficiaries. Our unique collaborative approach enables providers to work together to improve patient care while maintaining regional autonomy to adapt best-practices to fit their local area,” says Timothy A. Peterson, M.D., M.B.A., who is POM ACO’s executive and an emergency physician at Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center. “We are glad to be able to share in savings with CMS and reward our providers for their efforts to improve the quality of care, the cost of care and the patient experience of care. We look forward to continuing this work with providers across Michigan.”

POM ACO providers, who belong to 10 different physician organizations in 22 Michigan counties, will share a portion of the savings that they achieved for the Medicare system. Much of the money will be invested in improvements aimed at continuing to move the needle on care quality and cost.

“As a member of POM ACO from the beginning, we have been fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with some of the highest quality systems and practices across Michigan,” says Kim Speese, M.B.A., Executive Director of the Wexford PHO and Crawford PHO, and Executive Director of Population Health at Munson Healthcare. “As a provider organization in Northern Michigan, we sometimes face different challenges than others who practice medicine in more urban areas. However, having the opportunity to share learnings across the ACO has allowed us to think about some of our issues from a different perspective and implement solutions.”

Speese notes that the sharing of best practices among POM ACO providers has been key to the effort’s success, as has POM ACO’s data analytics service. “Having data for this population of patients has also given us insights into practice patterns and areas of opportunity that can be translated across the entire population of patients that we care for,” she says.

A focus on primary care and care transitions

In 2017, POM ACO members worked to increase the number of Michiganders who take advantage of Medicare benefits that can set the stage for better health care, including Welcome to Medicare clinic visits for newly enrolled patients, and Annual Wellness Visits, disease screening and preventive care for ongoing patients.

They’ve also continued to focus on the transition between hospitals and nursing homes or other skilled nursing facilities, and in the number of days spent in both types of facilities. By partnering with the facilities where its participating beneficiaries tend to receive care, POM ACO members continue to find opportunities to improve care and reduce costs.

Each provider receives detailed information about his or her performance on quality measures, and practices and groups share best practices and innovations with one another. This allows them to coordinate the care that Medicare beneficiaries receive from different primary care and specialty providers, and to prevent health issues and repeat hospitalizations.

“This partnership promotes best practice sharing among high quality providers and health systems across Michigan. Collaborating with other POM ACO partners has allowed us to streamline some of our approaches and to improve care provided to Medicare beneficiaries,” says Jeni Hughes, executive director of Oakland Southfield Physicians PC. “We have been able to take the data POM ACO offers to partners, and drill down to the provider practice-level in identifying improvement plans for our providers and the Medicare beneficiaries they serve. We are thrilled by the results.”

“For an organization of our size, geographic span, and large and diverse beneficiary and provider populations to have achieved such significant results says a great deal about the commitment of all involved,” says Terrisca Des Jardins, MHSA, POM ACO’s administrative director. “Working together we are delivering better quality and better health outcomes, and at the same time achieving cost savings. Everyone engaged in POM ACO has a reason to be proud.”

A history of improving care & bending the cost curve

Launched in 2013 as a joint venture of U-M and six physician groups, POM ACO complemented the Pioneer accountable care organization that U-M’s physicians already belonged to at the time. 

By moving U-M physicians and other providers into POM ACO in 2014, U-M continued its longstanding commitment to new models of care. That commitment began in 2005, with participation in the CMS Physician Group Practice demonstration project that led to the creation of the now-national ACO model. This is the twelfth year in a row in which U-M physicians have saved the Medicare system money by coordinating and improving care as part of innovative federal programs. More about U-M’s participation in these efforts: http://www.uofmhealth.org/pophealth.

Learn more about POM ACO and its participating clinical locations at www.pom-aco.com

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