Published August 25, 2014

BCBS companies spur innovation in care quality

Imagine if your pill bottle played music to remind you it’s time for a dose, or that all hospital-acquired infections were eradicated.  What if there was a machine-learning algorithm that could spot cases of undiagnosed diabetes?

Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies believe dreams like those should not just be left to the imagination. In fact, we are actively working to make them a reality.

From research partnerships with top universities and hospitals to state-wide hospital collaboratives, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are using the Power of Blue, the power to make a difference in the health of the communities we serve, to help spur innovations in quality.

Ensuring that patients in our local communities receive safe, quality care not only helps people live healthier lives, but can help lower costs associated with hospital readmissions. The following are examples of how Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are working to ensure that patients receive care at the highest levels of quality.

Independence Blue Cross- Whether it’s through glowing, musical pill bottles or machine-learning algorithms, Independence Blue Cross (IBC) is identifying innovative ways to improve healthcare quality and safety through partnerships with leading academic institutions like New York University and NYU Langone Medical Center and Penn Medicine.

At NYU, Independence Blue Cross (IBC) is working with experts to develop machine-learning algorithms that spot cases of undiagnosed diabetes and predict pre-diabetes in patients. Some of today’s most pressing health issues like stroke and cancer are at the forefront of a project with Penn Medicine, where research initiatives include analyzing the economic impact of peer mentors to help manage diabetes, establishing stroke centers in Philadelphia hospitals and understanding how genomic testing can improve clinical outcomes and reduce cancer treatment cost.

Another experiment in the Penn Medicine collaboration involves a pill bottle that glows and makes musical sounds to remind heart attack survivors to take their medication. A corresponding study examines whether the device helps patients take their medications as prescribed to reduce risk of another heart attack.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield- Hospital-acquired infections cost billions of dollars a year across the country.  In upstate New York alone, treating hospital-acquired infections added more than $344 million to hospital costs in 2011.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is putting the Power of Blue to work to combat these numbers with the Bordering on Zero collaborative. The collaborative is a partnership between Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, IGNITE consulting and 13 upstate New York hospitals that aims to improve patient safety, including the prevention of hospital- acquired infections, reducing the number of patient falls, compliance with hand hygiene and more.

Bordering on Zero uses a frontline staff ownership approach to improve care and builds on work of Michael Gardam, M.D., medical director for infection prevention and control at Toronto’s University Health Network and director of IGNITE Consulting. Gardam’s research on patient safety was able to help five Canadian hospitals reduce infection rates by 50 percent in just 18 months. Bordering on Zero aims to demonstrate swift, positive results that will improve outcomes for patients in the local community.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee- Improving safety and quality of care for patients in Tennessee is the centerpiece of a multi-year program funded by the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation (THF).

The THF supports the Tennessee Surgical Quality Improvement Program (TSQIP) and the Tennessee Center for Patient Safety (TCPS), both of which focus on ensuring that patients receive quality care and that surgeons adhere to a strict standard of care and safety with each interaction and procedure.

To accomplish this, the TSQIP partners with a “surgical champion” at each hospital, who is dedicated to improving safety statistics. Meanwhile, the TCPS program protects the patient’s right to quality and safe care, raising the bar on patient care in Tennessee.

This dual approach has been implemented by the Tennessee Hospital Association and the Tennessee Medical Association, and continues to address the ongoing need for improvement in both patient safety and quality of care to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.

To learn more about these programs and the commitment Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies share in creating healthier communities, visit the complete Investing in America’s Health report.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.