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Hospitals' Data Sharing Improves Surgical Care

Jeff Elliott for HealthLeadersMedia, October 26, 2010

Hospitals that have been given incentives to collaborate with one another can significantly reduce surgical complications, according to a study conducted by the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative (MSQC)—a group hospitals throughout the state that joined to help improve surgical outcomes—and published in the Archives of Surgery.

The study was funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and its Blue Care Network, which paid hospitals to pool and share patient data in hopes of utilizing the information to help lower adverse events related to surgery. BCBSM also covered technology costs related to data acquisition and analysis.

Information on general and vascular surgeries was collected between 2005 and 2007 at 16 Michigan hospitals, with the analysis finding that blood infections, septic shock, prolonged ventilation use, and cardiac arrest decreased approximately 10% among hospitals that shared data, versus the control group that did not collaborate with one another in which complications did not experience any measureable reduction.

According to study author Darrell A. Campbell, Jr., M.D., professor of surgery and CMO at the University of Michigan Health System, hospitals are making an effort to improve quality and cut costs across the board in the way they think is best, but this approach has met with only limited success.

"The collaboration of hospitals in terms of identifying and disseminating information about best practices is actually a much more effective way of improving quality," he says. "Our idea was to get a number of hospitals together so we could share and distribute information about best practices throughout a community of hospitals."
Campbell believes the results largely reflect the fact that data from the individual hospitals results is not reported to BCBSM, fostering a better environment for collaboration, even among competing hospitals. "The approach we’ve tried is called ‘pay for participation,’ rather than pay for performance," he says. "We think this fosters a less competitive atmosphere."

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