Intel creates healthcare marketplace collaborative, improves clinical processes: 8 critical elements

Similar to many companies in the U.S., Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel has faced soaring employee healthcare costs in recent years and has struggled to find the best approach to lowering costs, until now.

To improve quality and cost management, Intel created a Healthcare Marketplace Collaborative, or HMC, focused on adopting best-practice clinical processes for treating conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and lower back pain. The company worked with Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle to provide the best practices, as well as health plan administrator Cigna to contribute claims data to establish priorities and track progress.

Ultimately, Intel's costs of certain conditions fell between 24 percent and 49 percent. Additionally, patients had more access to care, returned to work faster and reported improved levels of patient satisfaction. The collaborative also eliminated more than 10,000 hours' worth of waste in healthcare suppliers' business processes.

In a recent article published in Harvard Business Review, Patricia A. McDonald, Intel's vice president of human resources; Robert S. Mecklenburg, MD, medical director of the Center for Health Care Solutions at Virginia Mason; and Lindsay A. Martin, executive director of innovation and adviser at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, outlined eight elements critical to the success of the Intel HMC.

The eight elements are summarized below.

1. Explicitly state what each player is responsible for bringing to the effort. That includes employers, providers, insurers or administrators, and physician leaders.

2. Establish a shared aim. For instance, the Intel HMC members agreed to focus on a goal that would be in the interests of all the stakeholders, including patients: providing the right care at the right cost for everyone involved.

3. Avoid reinventing the wheel. Employer-led collaboratives can (and should) draw on a number of previously established sources of processes and expertise.

4. Make the HMC flexible. There collaborative should have a system in place that allows members to propose and test potential changes and improvements.

5. Prioritize goals based on impact and difficulty. Intel combed through Cigna's claims data to choose which medical conditions to focus on initially, based on which improvements would most benefit its employees, their dependents and the company.

6. Choose simple metrics and goals. There are hundreds of quality indicators that healthcare providers can track, but many are not useful in an employer-driven initiative like an HMC. The collaborative should choose a handful of simple, standard metrics on which to focus.

7. Agree upon one improvement methodology. Whether its lean, Six Sigma or some other quality improvement approach, the members of the collaborative should pick one and stick to it.

8. Fix the business side. Any serious effort to make healthcare more affordable has to tackle not only the clinical side but also the business side, including administrative processes such as booking appointments and billing.



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