Wisconsin providers are making great strides in health care innovation as part of a statewide organization of eight top-performing health care systems. Through a unique and growing strategic partnership, AboutHealth is dedicated to sharing data and best practices to improve clinical quality, increase efficiency and enhance the customer experience for state residents.
AboutHealth debuted in August 2014 as a partnership among six of Wisconsin’s largest health care systems. The network has since grown to eight partners providing care for about 94 percent of the state’s population.
Gundersen Health System is one of AboutHealth’s founding organizations. Mark Platt, senior vice president of business services at Gundersen, said the changing health care landscape requires a faster pace of change in quality improvement. Together, health care systems can do better things, faster.
Because AboutHealth is a partnership rather than a merger, each health system remains independent, and the network avoids the cumbersome process of merging assets. Platt said this unique “system of systems” delivers the benefits of partnership without that hurdle.
“We have an obligation to our communities to help them reach their highest potential in their health,” Platt said. “We can serve our people best with a partnership model like this.”
AboutHealth’s other participating health systems include Aspirus, Aurora Health Care, Bellin Health, Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS), ProHealth Care, ThedaCare™, and UW Health. Each partner is a recognized leader in health care quality and efficiency.
The network’s initial challenge, Platt said, was a lack of overlap among each system’s operations and data. In areas like health information technology (HIT), shared resources are especially important.
“All eight organizations are working together to determine the best method for sharing data in a way that contributes to their collective mission,” Platt said. “The ability to have a common warehouse of robust information is key to transforming health care quality and efficiency. We can more easily find deviations between systems and identify the biggest opportunities for improvement.”
Already, AboutHealth has begun reducing the costs of purchasing hospital supplies by consolidating their purchasing power. The collective power of AboutHealth also enables partners to take more business risks than they could on their own. This can provide more freedom for innovation.
Platt said the partnership allows members to leverage each other’s strengths.
“There are things each health system does better than the others,” he said. “We’re all high quality, but some centers have better metrics than others in certain areas. We all walk away from a meeting with opportunities to improve.”
Starting in 2016, a new agreement with Arise Health Plan will give patients streamlined access to high-quality, best-value providers throughout the state by offering insurance coverage across AboutHealth practices. Employers that shift employee health plans to AboutHealth will be guaranteed in-network prices and access to patient health records across the network.
Platt said he expects the next year to bring more enhancements to clinical quality and keener insights into meaningful data sharing. As health care changes, health care systems must change along with it to remain relevant to the communities they serve.
“Transformational change is coming,” Platt said. “We have the opportunity to drive that change before something drives it for us.”