Several efforts are underway to improve Wyoming’s health care system. While not as comprehensive as the Affordable Care Act, they employ some of the same concepts: Rewarding value over volume, emphasizing prevention and eliminating the waste that plagues the current system. Some ideas would work alongside federal health reform. Others are designed as an alternative.
Health information exchange
The state is working with a nonprofit group to organize a system for electronically sharing information among health care providers. The health information exchange would allow a patient’s medical records to follow him wherever he seeks care. That would, in theory, cut down on medical errors and unnecessary tests.
Health care providers could use the exchange to better understand the populations they treat. It might show, for example, the percentage of patients staying current on their medications.
The information exchange is not without critics. Switching to an electronic system can be costly for providers. Although the system is designed with security features, some doctors worry about sharing patient information.
Two years ago, the Wyoming Legislature created Healthy Frontiers, a pilot program for controlling costs and expanding coverage to more of the uninsured. Healthy Frontiers uses preventative care and incentives to manage chronic illnesses and avoid expensive medical problems.
The program is backed by Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, who says it has the potential to reduce costs by up to 35 percent. Scott would like to expand it, but some colleagues in the Legislature say they won’t support the move. Last week, Gov. Matt Mead said he didn’t know what was in store for the program, given that so few people are participating.
Gov. Matt Mead has made clear his opposition to the Affordable Care Act. But he says it’s critical for the state to develop its own health reform strategy.
The governor wants to move Wyoming to a system that rewards value over volume. His plan has three major parts:
n Increasing information technology in the health care arena.
n Fostering an environment that allows the private sector to make improvements in the system.
n Using the state’s purchasing power to leverage better value.
The Leapfrog Hospital Survey
The Wyoming Business Coalition on Health has been pushing hospitals to participate in a national performance survey performed by the Leapfrog Group. The survey allows employers and individuals to compare hospitals based on various quality and safety measures. The coalition believes the additional transparency will help consumers make better decisions about health care spending.
Fewer than half of Wyoming’s 27 hospitals took part in the 2011 survey. Participation, however, is increasing. In May 2010, information was only available for two facilities. Now, consumers can compare 12 hospitals, including Wyoming Medical Center in Casper.
Wyoming Integrated Care Network
In May, a group of Wyoming hospitals formed the Wyoming Integrated Care Network to better coordinate care among the state’s various providers. The partners believe they can save money and improve quality by working together.
Organizers want to develop a patient-centered health care model called a medical home. It uses physician-led medical teams to provide comprehensive, coordinated care. Such an approach emphasizes prevention and is designed to avoid duplicate services.
The network current includes 20 hospitals, three professional organizations and the University of Wyoming’s College of Health Sciences.