Excellence in Health Care can be a Reality for all Minnesotans: Blog by Carolyn Pare, President and CEO, Minnesota Health Action Group

exerciseEveryone deserves top-quality care and the chance for a healthy future. But for some, this is complicated by chronic conditions like diabetes, vascular disease and depression—three top drivers of health care costs. These three chronic conditions have been identified among five diseases that generate approximately 25 percent of health care costs in the United States, according to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.

Diabetes, heart disease and depression affect hundreds of thousands in Minnesota,
preventing them from living life to the fullest, and resulting in financial hardship. According to the Minnesota Department of Health:

Power of private and public collaboration in Minnesota

Unlike other states, Minnesota is fortunate be the home of a unique private and public collaboration called Minnesota Bridges to Excellence (MNBTE) that focuses on improving health care — and outcomes — for people with diabetes, vascular disease and depression.

The concept is simple, yet extremely powerful: Public and private health care purchasers collaborating to reward clinics for delivering exceptional care and keeping Minnesotans with chronic conditions the healthiest they can be.

The program, which was developed by the Minnesota Health Action Group in 2006, has been so successful at improving the health of people across our great state that the Minnesota Department of Health partnered with The Action Group to administer a state-led pay-for-performance program called the Minnesota Quality Incentive Payment System (QIPS).

Simplicity key to program success

What sets MNBTE apart from pay-for-performance initiatives that health plans offer? For starters, simplicity. MNBTE is simply about rewarding clinics for excellent care and keeping patients healthy; unlike health plan pay-for-performance outcomes, which are often used as bargaining chips for the health care system to negotiate the best reimbursement rates.

The population-wide benefits of MNBTE also cannot be overlooked. You do not have to belong to a specific health plan to benefit from it, because performance standards are based on a clinic’s ability to improve care for their entire patient population that is affected by depression, diabetes or vascular disease. That means whether you live in Minneapolis or Milaca, Pillager or Pine City, or Willmar or Wanamingo — you and your loved ones will benefit from MNBTE.

An open-book commitment to transparency

Transparency is another defining quality of the program. Because MNBTE relies on public reporting and is run by a collaboration of health care stakeholders from across market segments, nothing is hidden. From the standards and requirements to individual clinic performance and rewards, the books are completely open; which is as it should be in health care. This collaborative of employers, public sector purchasers, care providers, quality improvement organizations, and health care organizations work together to refine and evolve the program from year to year, continually raising the bar on quality for all Minnesotans.

Most important, MNBTE recognizes and rewards real excellence. The quality requirements for the program are significantly higher than the statewide averages for diabetes, depression and vascular disease, which means that MNBTE rewarded clinics truly are the state’s top performers. Consider that the statewide average for percentage of patients receiving optimal care for depression is 8 percent, for diabetes 46 percent, and for vascular disease 66 percent. Meanwhile, the required minimum performance rate for a clinic to qualify for an achievement reward from Minnesota Bridges to Excellence is 16 percent for depression, 63 percent for diabetes, and 77 percent for vascular disease.

This demonstrates the staying power of the program and sends a clear message that high-value health care and outcomes are a top priority for both public and private purchasers and for health care providers in Minnesota.

As Minnesotans, we’re privileged to live in a state that is known for health care innovation. MNBTE is a classic example of out-of-the-box thinking and collaborative spirit that makes our state a healthy place for everyone to live and thrive. The purchasers who provide funding for this program are true community and business leaders who have affected positive change for all Minnesotans.

Whether you are aware of MNBTE or not, chances are you know someone who has benefitted from it. The continued success of this effort sends a clear message that together, we can do more to improve care for the people of Minnesota and to lower costs, than any of us can do alone.


Carolyn Pare is the President and CEO of the Minnesota Health Action Group, the nonprofit organization that administers the Minnesota Bridges to Excellence program and the State of Minnesota’s Quality Incentive Payment System.

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