Marrying the interests of medical education and business, a General Motors Corp.-led partnership is funding a program to teach physicians how to factor costs into treatment decisions.
Under the direction of Wayne State University Medical School in Detroit and a medical education consortium including six hospitals, the program will be launched in March for 10,000 doctors in Southeast Michigan. At the same time, Wayne State's medical education curriculum will be modified to reflect program results.
The program is projected to save $700 million annually for payers in Michigan. If it's successful, the partnership wants to take it nationwide and enlist new partners.
The program springs from the mutual needs of GM and the consortium, called OHEP. In 1995, OHEP members decided they needed "to contact and establish relationships with business and industry to try to support the advancement of medical education in this country," said Ernest Hammel, OHEP executive director.
GM had been "trying to find partners on the provider side to better understand their needs and concerns and have them better understand ours," said Joan Rodney, regional director for GM's healthcare initiatives group in Southeast Michigan. When GM met with the consortium, the program was born.
Program leaders have identified six areas of care in which they believe better-trained doctors can save money. Each doctor, the leaders estimate, can save payers a total of $100 a day in all six areas.
General Motors, Chrysler Corp., Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, and two pharmacy-benefit management firms-Merck-Medco Managed Care and PCS Health Systems, which is owned by Eli Lilly & Co.-have pledged $760,000 over two years for the first phase of the program. In this leg, program directors plan to give information to 10,000 doctors about the relative costs of prescription drugs in the five areas that make up about 60% of prescribing costs in Southeast Michigan.
OHEP will launch a series of conferences on prescription drug costs. Through these and other meetings, doctors will be given a "prescription database best-buy card" that lists drugs' names and prices, their comparable drugs and generics, and their presence in formularies. Wayne's medical and pharmacy schools are developing the card.
Future areas the program will tackle are medical and surgical supplies and equipment, diagnostic procedures, durable medical equipment, rehabilitation services and workers' compensation services.