SOM Hosts Discussion on Improving Health Care Cost and Quality

May 19, 2015

Spring Health Care Forum: Cathy Robbins, Timothy Ferris, Anton Dodek, Cathy Minehan and Bob Coulam

Dr. Anton Dodek, BCBSMA and Dr. Timothy Ferris, Partners HealthCare discussed methods to contain costs while improving health care quality

The U.S. cannot afford to pay continuing increases in health care costs as increased costs do not necessarily yield better health care quality when compared to other developed nations. To bring this important conversation to Health Care MBA students and faculty, the Center for Research in Health Policy and Management and the SOM hosted the Spring Health Care Forum on current innovative techniques to lower costs and improve health care quality. 

To discuss this issue, we invited Anton Dodek, MD, Vice President for Medical Quality and Strategy and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Timothy Ferris, MD, Senior Vice President of Population Health Management at Partners HealthCare and Medical Director of the Mass General Physician Organization to speak at the SOM. 

At the Forum, Drs. Ferris and Dodek described the most important ways they are working to achieve greater value in health care. With changes to payment terms in health care, collaborative relationships have developed between insurers and providers. From the provider perspective, Dr. Ferris said "we share the same goals, we identify the same problems, we don't always share the same solution but the fact that we share the same goals helps us to keep making progress". 

As an insurer, Dr. Dodek commented "I discovered people that work for health plans want to do the best thing for their members. We don't always come at it from the same method as providers but the goal is a public health goal: high quality care at an affordable price". The payment terms now align incentives to control cost and meet quality goals with efforts at the kind of data sharing and consultation that rarely occurred in the past. 

They agreed that the collaboration had to include changes in culture. In that culture, there is a change in how providers think of their roles, encouraging greater collaboration and team-based care. This change in culture had to be accompanied by more reliance on sophisticated data analytics and information technology. 

Professor Coulam, Director of the Center for Research in Health Policy and Management, shared his perspective: "cost and quality do trade off somewhere but in the fragmented United States health care system, everyone thinks there are some opportunities to be explored and progress achieved by real efforts by real groups". This conversation on cost and quality in health care was an opportunity for SOM students to engage with the issues and further their learning on current health care issues. 

Photo Left to Right: Catherine Robbins, Program Director, Health Care MBA, Timothy Ferris, Anton Dodek, Cathy Minehan, Dean, SOM and Robert Coulam