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Patient affordability is one important component of Partners’ Strategic Initiative. By cutting costs and improving efficiency, Partners is taking important steps to make health care more affordable for all patients, implementing $25 million in savings initiatives in the past several months alone.
One of several success stories revolves around spine implant devices. A 20-member Value Analysis Team comprised of physicians, nurses and administrators devised a strategy that included a new pricing methodology and lower prices overall.
“We had many discussions, the point of which was to see whether our surgeons and others could agree on a more limited selection of products and a reduced number of vendors for those products, without compromising care,” said BWH senior surgeon and past division chief of Cardiac Surgery Lawrence Cohn, MD, co-chair of the team. “We provided a forum where everyone had a chance to express their opinions and discuss alternatives. When it came down to asking the surgeons, ‘Do you really need XYZ device or can you use something else?,’ they almost always agreed that there was an equivalent and acceptable alternative.”
Once the team was in agreement, they presented vendors with a pricing package for each individual component of a spine device (down to the micro-level of a screw for a cage), including a lower price overall. The 37 vendors were asked whether they would accept the pricing strategy, and in the end, all but nine vendors complied.
New three-year contracts went into effect in mid-September, with a total annual savings of $4.3 million—a 28 percent reduction from the original budget for these devices.
“This team really stepped up,” Cohn said. “Their willingness to adhere to a strong strategy collectively contributed to a very successful outcome.” As a result, patient affordability leaders are working with other groups of physicians on different types of implants and high-cost items.
Partners, which estimates that $50-75 million in savings could be found in non-staff areas during a 12- to 18-month period, has committed to implementing $300 million in system-wide cost savings over three years (2012-14).