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Aurora Health Care extends participation in groundbreaking national quality project

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Premier Healthcare Alliance, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services extend demonstration project with new incentive models to improve quality

Aurora Health Care today announced that it has decided to extend its participation in a groundbreaking national Medicare pay-for-performance project that has shown a dramatic impact on the quality of patient care.

Aurora has agreed to participate in the 3-year extension of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Premier healthcare alliance Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration, a national effort involving more than 260 hospitals. See how Aurora has performed.

CMS recently approved a 3-year extension of the quality demonstration project, which provides incentive payments to participating hospitals that deliver the highest quality of care. The extension will allow CMS to test new ways to measure quality and new incentive models.

"We're proud to be part of a select group of hospitals, all of which are already among the nation's top performers in terms of health care quality," said Nick Turkal, Aurora's president and chief executive officer. "While we've always focused on providing the highest-quality patient care, this effort has enabled us to learn new ways to improve care for our patients, while at the same time reducing the cost of care. The standards are very high, the participants are solid, and this effort allows the nation's best to learn from us while we learn from them."

Aurora was the only Wisconsin health care system to participate in the initial 3-year CMS project. One other Wisconsin hospital participated.

Patrick Falvey, Aurora's vice president of care management and clinical research, said that Aurora's track record in each of the clinical areas that are part of this pilot program is very strong. In the most recent results from the initiative, 54 hospitals across the country ranked in the top 20%. Eight of those hospitals were Aurora hospitals.

"In the year 2 results, released earlier this year, all of our hospitals have been recognized as top performers," Falvey said.

Falvey noted that Aurora offers a complete continuum of health care services and integrates care across that continuum.

"Our integrated system ensures that the same quality standards are incorporated into care provided at all stages of life," he said.

According to Premier/CMS, improvements in quality of care over the first two years of the demonstration project saved 1,284 acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) patients. During that time, participating hospitals raised overall quality by 11.8% in the five clinical areas studied. That meant better care and outcomes for more than 800,000 patients.

For year 2, CMS awarded incentive payments of $8.7 million to 115 top-performing hospitals, representing the top 20% of hospitals in each of the five clinical areas in the project. Aurora received more than $351,000 of the total incentive payments.

A peer-reviewed article in the February issue of the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that hospitals engaged in the project achieved higher quality scores than hospitals that participated only in the public reporting of quality data.
During the first 3 years of the demonstration, only top-performing hospitals have been eligible for incentive payments. The 3-year extension will test the effectiveness of 2 new models as well:

  • Hospitals achieving a defined level of quality, or a quality threshold
  • Hospitals making the most improvement in quality that also achieve the quality threshold

The extension will continue to track hospital performance in the clinical areas of pneumonia, heart bypass, heart attack (acute myocardial infarction), heart failure, and hip and knee replacement. The extended demonstration includes the flexibility to add quality measures and clinical conditions in the 5th and 6th years. New mortality and patient safety measures are among those that may be included.

"We are pleased to receive an extension of this project and look forward to testing new ways to measure and support high quality care," said Stephanie Alexander, Premier's senior vice president for Healthcare Informatics. "The hospitals participating in this project deserve credit for pioneering these new ideas and for the tremendous quality of care they deliver."

Richard A. Norling, president and CEO of Premier, said: "This project is making a real difference for patients now and in the future. Through the knowledge we will gain by extending the project, we have the opportunity to make a lasting contribution to the health care system in this country and the patients it serves."
For more information, please click here.

About Premier, 2006 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient

Serving 1,700 hospitals and 44,000 other health care sites, Premier is the largest health care alliance in the U.S. dedicated to improving patient outcomes while safely reducing the cost of care. Owned by not-for-profit hospitals, Premier operates the nation's largest health care purchasing network, the most comprehensive repository of hospital clinical and financial information and one of the largest policyholder-owned, hospital professional liability risk-retention groups in health care. Based in San Diego, Premier also has offices in Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. More information about Premier is available at

About Aurora Health Care

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora offers services at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

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Contact: Ron Irwin (414-647-3405)

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