AHA applauds hospitals' efforts to cut health costs, challenges others

In a prominent advertisement in the July 26 issue of The Wall Street Journal, the American Hospital Association assured readers that while they may be frustrated with the rising price of care, hospitals and health systems are doing all they can to curb costs.

Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the AHA, said providers are rethinking even the most fundamental assumptions of care in an effort to "redefine the H" and deliver the most affordable care possible.

"Unlike drug companies, hospitals and health systems have successfully tapped the brakes on price hikes," wrote Mr. Pollack. "They have managed to slow price growth to under 2 percent during each of the last four years despite an increased demand for emergency care due to major natural disasters and epidemics."

Here are four steps he says hospitals and health systems are taking to improve value for patients:

1. Redesigning delivery systems. Hospitals are coordinating with physicians and clinics to create a more organized continuum of care in order to reduce errors and redundant procedures. Mr. Pollack cites Houston-based Memorial Hermann's accountable care organization, which he says has saved more than $200 million over three years in the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

2. Improving quality and outcomes. Mr. Pollack said greater access to coordinated care outside the hospital helps lower costs for patients and improve their outcomes.

3. Embracing new reimbursement models. Mr. Pollack said the increasing acceptance of bundled payments is just one example of the efforts hospitals are making to embrace alternative payment models.

4. Leveraging technology. Not only are hospitals combining new technologies and community resources to maximize well-being,  they're using technology to deliver care to underserved communities.

"Hospitals and health systems are trimming spending while improving patient outcomes. It's time for other healthcare stakeholders to do the same," Mr. Pollack wrote.

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