Riding on Amtrak – Excited about the path ahead (for health care)

January 20, 2022 / By Megan Carr

As I hopped on an Amtrak train to go to a meeting (something I haven’t done in a long time!), I pulled out my laptop to start reading emails – and a Health Affairs blog titled “Building On The CMS Strategic Vision: Working Together For A Stronger Medicare” by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) leaders Meena Seshamani, Elizabeth Fowler and Chiquita Brooks La-Sure grabbed my attention and fueled my excitement about the future of health care policy and reform. 

Their focus on health equity, making the system more accessible and understandable for patients, driving patient-centered, high quality care – all while ensuring the sustainability of the trust fund for Medicare beneficiaries today and tomorrow – is something we can all applaud. Their goals of improving data and analytics, expanding transparency, and moving all beneficiaries (both original Medicare and Medicare Advantage (MA)) into a “care relationship with accountability for quality and total cost of care by 2030” are both challenging and achievable – with a lot of hard work and effort by all.

I think their message hits home with me because it aligns so closely with the mission of 3M HIS – to improve the health care system with better data, analytics and transparency – in a way that is clinically derived, patient-centered and understandable to providers, payers and patients. Important through all of this too is to try to achieve these Herculean goals without piling on additional strain and reporting burdens to the providers, who have all risen to many regulatory challenges from quality programs in addition to being hit by COVID-19.

3M is “in it to win it” with support for achieving CMS’ goals:

  • Risk adjusting to the patient – Understanding his or her health status and needs. Key to a patient-centered approach is to fully understand the scope and scale of a patient’s burden of illness. Risk adjusting to the patient – not a patient’s primary disease – is the best way to do this. This approach not only informs care needs, it can also most accurately help determine resource needs and aid the tracking of health status over time.
  • Improving data collection. Critical to addressing health equity is to ensure our data includes vital information related to race, ethnicity and the many social influencers of health like housing, transportation and nutrition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has done great work in setting up the Z Codes, and through the work of the Gravity Project and many others, they will continue to expand and refine these codes. 3M is actively working with our health care partners to improve awareness of these codes and how to use them, as well as address burdens that stand in the way of their capture and actionable use.
  • Identifying avoidable health care events to inform care coordination and patient management. For nearly a decade, 3M has supported initiatives by commercial and public payers, including many leading state Medicaids, to identify potentially preventable hospital readmissions, potentially preventable complications, potentially preventable admissions, potentially preventable emergency room visits, and more. Whether it be for internal reporting, in support distribution of quality performance pool dollars, or for determining quality program incentives, these programs are helping to improve patient care by setting performance benchmarks in a clinically credible way and surfacing care that is above and below provider norms. For example, Minnesota’s RARE program lead by the Minnesota Hospital Association helped prevent 4,570 avoidable hospital readmissions, allowing patients to spend 18,280 more nights in their own bed. In New York, the Medicaid Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program reduced potentially preventable admissions by 26.1 percent over the 5 year period.
  • Using current data streams. As noted above, the health care system is already strained. In all we do, we try to use current data streams and automate functions where we can to improve the patient experience and make the health care system more efficient.
  • Incentivizing high quality care to improve outcomes and lower costs. Keeping patients as healthy as possible is better for them and its better for the health care system and costs. Focusing on the areas where there are the greatest opportunities for impact is what we do – for the patient, to help reduce total cost of care, and to yield savings to make health care more affordable today and in the future.

CMS’ compelling blog got me writing before I hit the first stop. I know, together, we can all make our health care system better for everyone and I’m so glad to be at 3M where my colleagues and I seek to contribute to this goal every day. Anyone else out there excited and ready?

Megan Carr, head of the Regulatory and Government Affairs team at 3M Health Information Systems.