MU School of Medicine awarded $13.3 million grant for health care innovation

Thursday, July 26, 2012 | 6:27 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The MU School of Medicine plans to use a $13.3 million federal Heath Care Innovation grant to deliver enhanced medical care to Medicare and Medicaid recipients who use MU Health Care as a primary care facility.

The grant is the largest ever received by the School of Medicine; it came from The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation and will fund a series of initiatives to develop more coordinated and effective interaction between patients and physicians, as well as proactive, multifaceted health care.

Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it would fund various projects that proposed new ways to provide improved health care at lower costs to beneficiaries of Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance programs. Of 3,000 applications, 107 projects were funded. Awards between $1 million and $30 million went to clinicians, medical suppliers, hospitals and health centers to institute change nationwide.

On Thursday morning, Brady Deaton, MU chancellor; Robert Churchill, dean of the medical school; Jerry Parker, medical school associate dean for research and co-director of the MU Institute for Clinical and Translation Science; and Joanne Burns, MU Health Care chief information officer and executive director of the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation, outlined elements of the program, which will be known as LIGHT2.

"Although we spend more on health care and health-related research than any other nation in the world, our citizens score relatively low on indexes of overall health," said Parker, who will direct LIGHT2. "As a result, there's a great need for innovation, creativity and for novel approaches to the delivery of health care."

LIGHT2 stands for Leveraging Information Technology to Guide High Tech, High Touch Care. The program will directly affect the roughly 10,000 Medicare and Medicaid patients who use university hospitals and clinics as primary care providers.

The "high-tech" part of the program is intended to change physician workflow and enhance patient engagement.

Burns said doctors will use electronic dashboards for health care evaluations, which will eventually lead to better decision making processes in the industry. 

"As a physician is engaging with their patient at the point of care, they can see: How is this patient doing? How are they embracing their care? And how are we proactively managing?" Burns said.

Doctors can review populations of patients with similar conditions. A physician treating a number of patients with diabetes, for example, will be able to evaluate how they compare with each other. Burns said a physician will be able to compare his or her patient group with larger populations. Based on that data, he or she can ask what needs to be done better or differently, and what can be learned from colleagues who have been successful.

Patients will have access to a personal dashboard online so they can be active in their personal preventive care. People with chronic diseases will learn how to better manage their illness and have access to tools to help them do so. Burns said based on a patients' needs, they might be able to monitor their own blood glucose level, weight or blood pressure.

"It's pretty exciting to think about enabling that," Burns said.

LIGHT also will remind patients about medications they should take and about  preventive health screenings.

LIGHT2 was designed to build on MU Health Care's partnership with Cerner Corp. — a global supplier of health information technology headquartered in Kansas City — which led to the development of the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation in 2009. The shift from reactive to proactive care is one of the Tiger Institute's primary goals.

The wellness empowerment aspects of LIGHT2 are expected to reduce emergency room visits, prevent unnecessary procedures and avoid prolonged or unnecessary hospitalization. Those involved with the program say that should result in a savings of $17 million over the next three years.

The "high-touch" component of LIGHT2 will rely on a specialized work force to assist in primary care. The innovation positions include health care coordinators and health information analysts. 

Parker said health information analysts will work behind the scenes and focus on tracking the health statuses and specific needs of assigned patient populations. By reviewing data, analysts will be able to gain "actionable" insight to manage patient care.

Health care coordinators are a direct source of support and guidance for patients to become more engaged in their own health. They will offer advice for leading healthy lifestyles and tips for managing chronic conditions. Coordinators also will help  patients build strong relationships with their doctors. Parker said these intermediaries will create fast effective interactions when patients visit with their primary care physicians.

About 30 new jobs will be created as LIGHT2 develops, and an estimated 420 workers will train for different elements of the program.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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