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Ohio's Better Health reports 10 percent drop in cardiovascular hospitalizations

Better Health, a regional health improvement collaborative in northeast Ohio reported that hosptializations for cardiovascular conditions addressed by its programs fell by 10.7 percent in 2011, building on declines in 2009 and 2010. According to Better Health this is first time a decline in avoidable hospitalizations has been reported as a result of a regional health collaborative's efforts.

In all, the analysis of the program, conducted in Ohio's Cuyahoga County, estimated that Better Health programs and activities prevented 2,854 hospitalizations over the three-year period for total savings of more than $20 million for health plans, employers and families when compared with the state's next five largest counties.

"These new data show that our partner health systems' efforts to transform primary care are paying off for Northeast Ohio patients, health plans and employers," said Randall D. Cebul, MD, Better Health director and president, in a press release announcing the findings. "Investments in electronic health records, care coordination and quality improvement have positioned primary care to play a strong and central role in the changing health care landscape."

[See also: 4 reasons patients aren't managing their care]

The findings were reported in Better Health's 10th Community Health Checkup, a report issued twice a year that details the progress of Better Health's initiatives with primary care providers to improve care quality for a number of costly chronic conditions.

Better Health's mission is to both measure and report on the progress providers are making in adopting nationally endorsed standards of quality care, while also identifying best practices and disseminating the information among other health systems. The collaborative also provides on-site coaching to providers as they look to adopt best practices in achieving patient-centered care, and works with health plans and employers interested in improving care quality and reducing costs.

[See also: Managing doctor, nurse practitioner turnover rates key to collaborative care]

The cardiovascular conditions outlined in the study include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure and angina, which are all among the health disorders researchers classify as "ambulatory care sensitive conditions" – ones for which the likelihood of hospital admission for complications can be dramatically reduced by access to appropriate primary care. The decline in hospitalizations for these chronic conditions indicate better – and improving – primary care in a region.

"We … see tangible evidence that the efforts of Better Health and its member practices is delivering better value for the dollars that business, government and consumers spend on health care," said Tim Kowalski, MD, president of Health Action Council Quality Forum and chief medical officer of Progressive Corp, in the press release. "We are optimistic that more investment in payment systems that emphasize quality and outcomes will further accelerate gains that are needed for the economic health of our region."

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