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HHS officials meet with HealthPartners; discussion includes reducing use of opioids, health care costs

July 12, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Two top officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services met with HealthPartners physicians and leaders today at HealthPartners Neuroscience Center in St. Paul. Topics of discussion included ways to make care more affordable and treating chronic pain while reducing the use of opioids.

The meeting included Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan and Regional Director Douglas O’Brien of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bret Haake, MD, Regions Hospital Chief Medical Officer, Thomas von Sternberg, MD, HealthPartners Senior Medical Director, Donna Zimmerman, Senior Vice President Government and Community Relations and Claire Neely MD, Chief Medical Officer, Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement.

Treating pain while reducing the use of opioids

Federal officials learned about HealthPartners pain management program. The program includes four specialized pain clinics that offer multidisciplinary, holistic services that address the multiple causes of pain. Results show that this approach is effective at managing pain while reducing the use of opioids. HealthPartners has reduced opioid prescriptions in its clinics and hospitals by nearly 3.5 million pills per year.

“We know that this approach is the more effective than opioids in treating chronic pain than. Now we need new payment models to support innovative approaches like this,” said Bret Haake, MD, Regions Hospital Chief Medical Officer.

Lowering the cost of care

The HHS officials also learned about HealthPartners innovative tools and models of care that deliver high quality care while lowering the cost of care. One example is HealthPartners online clinic Nurse practitioners treat more than 60 conditions at a cost of $105 less than a traditional clinic visit.

Another innovation is HealthPartners total cost of care tool that is now in use across the nation. Endorsed by the National Quality Forum, it measures not only the price of services, but the volume and effectiveness of services. As a result of using this approach, HealthPartners total cost of care is 17 percent lower than the Minnesota average. Its pharmacy costs are 23 percent lower than the state average according to an analysis by Optum.

“The best value means getting the highest quality for the lowest possible price. Our strategy to achieve this in health care is to focus on the Triple Aim of improving quality, lowering costs and delivering a great experience,” said Thomas von Sternberg, MD, the Senior Medical Director of Senior Care, Government Programs, and Disease Case Management for HealthPartners.

The meeting also included a tour of HealthPartners Neuroscience Center. Opened last year, it is the largest freestanding neuroscience center in the upper Midwest. It treats patients for neurological conditions, from stroke to spinal injuries to dementia.

About HealthPartners

Founded in 1957, the HealthPartners family of health care companies serves more than one million medical and dental health plan members nationwide. It is the largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the nation, providing care, coverage, research and education to improve the health of members, patients and the community.

Media Contacts

Patricia Lund
Senior communications consultant
612-527-1921 (pager)

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