American Healthways and Johns Hopkins recently announced an alliance to establish the Johns Hopkins Outcomes Verification Program. Nashville-based American Healthways, the nation's largest provider of specialized, comprehensive care and disease management services, has made a five-year, $6 million-plus commitment to fund the program. Faculty from the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing and the Bloomberg School of Public Health will independently evaluate and verify the effectiveness of a wide range of health care models based on outcomes interventions and their clinical and financial results.
"For at least the past 10 years, America's health care system and those who measure its performance or pay for its services have been focused on controlling and counting units of service," said Thomas Cigarran, American Healthways chairman and CEO. "We believe that a much more valid measure of the effectiveness of health care services can be found in determining both the clinical and financial outcomes of care."
Edward D. Miller, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and dean of the faculty of the School of Medicine, said, "There is more evidence than ever that focusing on outcomes of care, rather than on units of service or utilization, leads to better care for patients and, as a result, improves their health and often, we expect, reduces the cost of care as well.
"Johns Hopkins has a long history of conducting outcomes research in a wide range of clinical areas, both for our own institution as well as for third parties," Miller continued. "So all three of the university's health division schools are very pleased to be part of this alliance with American Healthways and to have the opportunity it offers to independently evaluate approaches that might prove effective in closing the gaps in our current delivery system."
According to Cigarran, "There are many promising and creative outcomes- based approaches being pursued by health care organizations, but there is a dire need for an impartial, independent and credible third party to evaluate and certify both the clinical and financial outcomes of these various approaches.
"No other entity we can think of," he continued, "meets that industry need as well as Johns Hopkins, which is why we are proud to be the charter corporate sponsor for this program and eager to be the first program scientifically evaluated."
Central to American Healthways' outcomes-focused approach, called Care Enhancement, is its use in four call centers of skilled, extensively trained and highly empathetic registered nurses, dietitians and other health care professionals, who establish person-to-person relationships with the patients and physicians and other health care providers enrolled in employee health care plans managed by the company.
Call-center nurses work on behalf of the health care provider to make sure patients understand and follow their prescribed treatment program. They also provide a variety of services to assist in that effort, such as coordinating multiple health care appointments, explaining conditions, tests and procedures, and providing health monitoring devices.
Frederick L. Brancati, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins, and a member of the outcomes verification leadership group, said, "[The company's] Care Enhancement strategy appears to be an innovative approach to improving health care outcomes and lowering the costs of care. We are looking forward to this first evaluation of American Healthways' program and outcomes data."
To generate additional funding for the program, Hopkins and American Healthways are encouraging other industry organizations to utilize it for outcomes evaluation.
"We are confident that the Johns Hopkins seal of approval on proven program outcomes will come to be recognized by this country's health plans as the benchmark of program performance," Healthways' Cigarran said.