Keeping Local Healthcare Affordable
By Amey Vance
Rising healthcare costs continue to make headlines across the nation. Yet, in southwest Utah at Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center, strategies to keep healthcare affordable—while still delivering the best possible outcomes for patients—are helping keep costs lower.
“We are very fortunate to have Dixie Regional Medical Center in our community,” said Brian Chadaz, Dixie Regional board chair. “Dixie’s inpatient care costs compare well nationally; they are at or lower than the national average in nearly all categories and significantly lower than nearby southern Nevada. Dixie Regional’s inpatient care costs also compare well with other Utah hospitals.”
Dixie Regional’s charges are actually lower than similarly sized non-Intermountain Healthcare hospitals in all procedure categories measured by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Hospital Compare website. Evaluated categories include heart attack, hip and knee replacements, heart failure, and pneumonia. Consumers can go to https://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare to compare hospitals on a variety of measures, including cost.
“Intermountain is known to be a significant factor in Utah having the lowest per-capita healthcare costs in the United States,” said Intermountain Board Chair Gail Miller. “The team at Dixie Regional has done a tremendous job with affordability, access to care for patients, and service to the community.”
“Our goal is to keep people healthy by helping them avoid medical problems that can impair quality of life and drive costs up,” said Intermountain CEO Dr. Marc Harrison. “We use best practices and evidence-based medicine to consistently deliver the best possible clinical outcomes without variation that can increase cost. Our caregivers in southern Utah are doing a great job in helping meet this goal.”
Some of the specific ways Intermountain is addressing cost of care include:
Increasing Affordability of Generic Drugs. In an effort to keep hospital medications available and affordable, the not-for-profit generic drug manufacturer and distributor, Civica Rx, was launched in 2018 by Intermountain and other national health systems and philanthropies. Civica Rx provides low-cost, frequently used generic drugs to participating hospitals, including Dixie Regional.
Making Procedures Shoppable. “Knowing beforehand how much a medical service or procedure will cost results in a reduction of costs,” said Mitchell Cloward, administrator of Dixie Regional. “This year, Intermountain will begin using a new pricing program for many inpatient and outpatient services that people commonly use and seek price quotes for, such as delivering babies, imaging procedures, and colonoscopies.” Today, SelectHealth members can use an innovative and informative online cost-estimator tool.
Focusing on Preventative Care. Reimagined Primary Care is an Intermountain team-based care model that focuses on preventative care to keep patients well. The model already has about 31,000 patients enrolled and has seen impressive results, such as a 60 percent decrease in hospital admissions and a 35 percent decrease in emergency department admissions, while at the same time improving health outcomes for individuals.
Addressing Social Determinants of Health. Social determinants of health are factors in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that impact well-being and quality of life. They include food, transportation, housing, utilities, interpersonal violence, social support, and access to health services. Intermountain has initiated a three-year project in Washington County and Ogden to connect people with complex medical, behavioral, and social needs to local partners and outreach programs.
Providing Access to Care in Lower-Cost Settings. “We are providing ways to reduce unnecessary, higher-cost emergency room visits,” Cloward said, “by increasing access to appropriate care in lower-cost settings such as InstaCares (urgent care clinics), physician offices, and Connect Care.” Connect Care is a 24/7 online service for $49 (or less depending on insurance) that allows patients to receive low-level but urgent care from Intermountain caregivers via smartphones, tablets, and computers.
Negotiating Supply Discounts. “When Intermountain reduces its costs for supplies and drugs, it can in turn directly lower charges to patients for those items,” Chadaz said. “Intermountain successfully negotiated better prices on supplies last year that resulted in more than $32 million in cost savings.”
Uniting with Strong Community Leadership. “Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs,” Chadaz said. “Because Intermountain is not-for-profit, revenue is further invested at Dixie Regional in extraordinary services like Intermountain Precision Genomics, intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging, and transcatheter aortic valve replacement. In addition, hundreds of hospital volunteers give their time, and the philanthropic support the hospital receives from our community through our foundation is incredible. Together, we are helping offer high-quality healthcare at the most affordable price.”