Heart surgeons and hospitals in Michigan can team up with the state's largest payer to share quality improvement data under a new program sponsored by the Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
The program, which is being supported financially by the Blues, will use information reported by hospitals to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons' 16-year-old national database, but will involve more local and in-depth analysis and an increased frequency, with reports planned to come back to physicians quarterly instead of semi-annually, according to Richard Prager, M.D., a professor of cardiac surgery and head of the adult cardiac surgery unit at the University of Michigan.
Prager also serves as the quality intitiative chairman for the Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons.
Financial support from the Blues under the partnership will help "jump start" portions of the state society's data-sharing initiative already under way, Prager said. Beginning this year, all 31 heart surgery programs in Michigan are supporters of the society's voluntary quality improvement intitiative in which data is being provided by and shared among 28 of the program participants. The data is identified by program, but not by physician, he said.
The unique feature about the new partnership with the Blues is that the surgeons will retain control of the data and the direction of the quality improvement initiatives.
"It's still our data," Prager said. "They don't get to see the data. They get to ask what are you doing, how are you doing.
"We have offered to present to them what our data are showing, what process improvement plans we have, what methodology we have if an improvement is felt to be necessary, (and) if we are attempting to standardize any protocols across institutions.
"What they want to see is we raise the benchmark for every program and this system creates that," Prager said, but "we are the change agents. It's up to us. It's our responsibility. We like that and we're going to run with it."
The other key group of players in the initiative are the data managers at the 31 participating hospitals, Prager said.
"They've set up their own data management blackboard and they already meet quarterly," he said. "There is no way we'd have 31 sites without them."
David Share, M.D., clinical director for the Blues' Center for Health Care Quality and Evaluative Studies, heads the program for the payer, which will provide $2 million a year in financial support.
Share said the funding will enable the Michigan physicians and hospitals to add data elements not now being collected at the national level.
"They'll be able to ask questions of themselves and collect data that's pertinent to the questions they ask," Share said. In addition, the money will fund hiring a quality improvement specialist to coordinate the efforts of the 31 programs and "help them stay on path and systematically implement change," he said. "So really, it's just a tremendous enhancement to what others can do using a national registry on their own," Share said.