GW Health Network to Improve Patient Care through Advancing Accountability
GW Health Network, the George Washington University’s (GW) new accountable care organization (ACO), will serve two purposes: ensuring that patients receive the highest quality care possible and that students learn how to use population health management.
Today, value in health care is quickly taking precedence over volume of care, and ACOs are designed to bring together providers and health systems to better coordinate quality care for Medicare patients and others.
Through the GW Health Network, the GW Medical Faculty Associates and GW Hospital will “strengthen the relationships between patients and providers to promote wellness and better chronic disease management,” explains Kimberly Russo, MBA, MS, CEO and managing director of GW Hospital. That includes leveraging technology to provide a better continuum of care for patients while also controlling costs, she adds.
In addition, students at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), as well as residents, interns, and fellows, will learn about the value of ACOs in class, and, once they start rotations in the hospital, they will have the opportunity to see how the system works firsthand.
“This is the world medical students will be working in, practicing in,” says Lawrence “Bopper” Deyton, MD ’85, MSPH, senior associate dean of clinical public health and Murdock Head Professor of Medicine and Health Policy at SMHS. “Because our students will get to learn in a system that is part of this ACO, they’re going to learn how to optimize care for individual patients, but also see that bigger picture of how to use the techniques of population health.”
Lessons will be taught using specific cases seen at the hospital or MFA via the ACO; if the data reveal a quality gap, students can use their knowledge and critical thinking to come up with a way to solve the problem. Solutions may be tied to better forms of communication about patient care, new services that could make workflows smoother, or improved care coordination between providers.
“It’s just a thrill that our students and our trainees get to begin to learn how to practice medicine in a system like this,” Deyton says.
The data mined from the ACO will be used to look at quality measures, specifically admissions for chronic conditions, says William Borden, MD, MBA, who is leading the GW Health Network. GW Hospital sees a high rate of readmissions of patients suffering from multiple chronic conditions, he notes, and a goal of the hospital and the MFA is to use ACO principles and data to identify ways to best help patients and keep those readmissions to a minimum.
Both entities also want to ensure primary care physicians are establishing effective relationships with their patients that promote access and prevention, as well as encouraging them to take full advantage of their Medicare benefits, such as their annual wellness benefit, says Russo.
Technology will play a major role in the ACO. GW will have access to robust analytics from Medicare, data that can help Borden understand the quality of care patients are receiving. In addition, the Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients, a regional health information exchange, offers real-time data on admissions, discharges, and transfers from emergency departments and hospitals throughout the region. All this information can be mined to find ways to improve care coordination, improve the patient-provider relationship, boost communication across the care continuum, and prevent readmissions, explains Borden.
Deyton adds that students and trainees will be able to offer unique ways in which data can be used to help patient populations. “We’ll hear student ideas and benefit from their understanding of technology and data analytics. And for them to come up with ways to improve patient care, patient coordination, patient communication, and population health is going to be very exciting,” he says.
Borden adds that providers across GW’s clinical enterprise also are excited about GW Health Network. “There’s enthusiasm about providing more Medicare annual wellness visits, there is enthusiasm about having better data to understand patients’ conditions and where patients are getting their care,” he says.
GW is part of track one of the Medicare Shared Savings Program, which is committed to achieving better health for individuals, better population health, and lowering growth in expenditures, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As of January 2018, there were more than 500 Medicare Shared Savings Program ACOs.
This isn’t GW’s first foray into the ACO realm. From 2014 to 2016, GW was part of the Mid-Atlantic ACO, which included hospitals and health systems across the mid-Atlantic region. That program was a great success, Borden notes, but the new GW-specific ACO will ensure efforts are tailored to patients in the Washington, D.C., area.
“Many of the initiatives driven out of the ACO will be linked to other initiatives that are going on for our broader patient population,” he adds. “We want to use the ACO as a base on which to build our activities around population health.”