Problem: Accountable care organizations (ACOs) emphasize cost-effectiveness, rewarding health care systems that provide the highest-quality care delivered by the most cost-efficient providers. Transitioning to an ACO model introduces distinct challenges for specialist physicians within academic health centers. As skin diseases constitute a large number of visits to primary care providers and specialists and place a significant financial burden on the health care system, the authors sought to identify specialist-driven strategies for cost-effective, patient-centered care delivery in dermatology.
Approach: As part of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s transition to an ACO, the Department of Dermatology in 2012 employed a team-based strategy to identify measures aimed at curbing the rate of rise in per-patient medical expense. Their approach may represent a methodological framework that translates to other specialist workforces.
Outcomes: The authors identified four action areas: (1) rational, cost-conscious prescribing within therapeutic classes; (2) enhanced management of urgent access and follow-up appointment scheduling; (3) procedure standardization; and (4) interpractitioner variability assessment. They describe the practices implemented in these action areas, which include a mix of changes in both clinical decision making and operational practice and are aimed at improving overall quality and value of care delivery. They also offer recommendations for other specialty departments
Next Steps: Involving specialist physicians in care delivery redesign efforts provides unique insights to enhance quality, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency of care delivery. With increasing emphasis on ACO models, further specialist-driven strategies for ensuring patient-centered delivery warrant development alongside other delivery reform efforts.