Minn. tool compares health provider quality, cost

The state of Minnesota has established a first-in-the-nation, Web-based tool for comparing health care providers, based on quality rating and cost.

MNhealthscores.org, maintained by the nonprofit MN Community Measurement, devised the nation’s first data bank of quality and performance information by medical group in 2004. Now, the organization has updated the website to include the average price of health plans to each medical group for the top 100 most common health services.

“Providing quality and cost information gives consumers a powerful tool for health care purchasing decisions,” Governor Tim Pawlenty said in a statement Monday. “This reform is part of our larger effort to make Minnesota’s health care system even more market-driven, patient-centered and quality-focused.”

The state of Minnesota and private health plan providers agreed to work together to put all cost and quality data together on a single website, with the help of the Smart Buy Alliance. The Smart Buy Alliance is a public/private coalition that negotiates on behalf of consumers to drive down the costs of healthcare. Alliance members have agreed to set uniform performance standards, cost/quality reporting requirements, and technology demands on health plans and providers and to favor providers and health plans that are certified for highest quality.

MN Community Measurement says it will continue to add prices for more services to the website and provider price changes will be monitored over time. MNhealthscores.org is one of many health technology initiatives being undertaken by the Pawlenty administration.

“Comparing cost is a fact of life in almost every other aspect of life, but it’s a fundamental change in health care. By increasing transparency we hope to hold down costs and improve quality,” Gov. Pawlenty said.

Other health care reforms include:

  • Giving Minnesotans access to an online personal health portfolio by 2011, and creating secure and portable online personal health portfolios for approximately 50,000 state employees by the end of 2009.
  • Becoming the first state in the nation to require all health care providers to use e-prescribing. The State of Minnesota is also implementing e-prescribing for state employees and their dependents through a new prescription benefits manager (PBM). A single PBM will increase efficiency and save the state about $5 million a year.
  • Minnesota’s largest health care organizations recently announce the Minnesota Health Information Exchange (MN-HIE) that will connect doctors, hospitals and clinics across health care systems so they can quickly access medical records needed for patient treatment during a medical emergency or for delivering routine care.
  • Introducing QCare – Quality Care and Rewarding Excellence, a new quality standard that will be used to reward top performing providers while saving money. QCare identifies quality measures, sets aggressive outcome targets for health care providers, makes comparable measures transparent to the public and changes the payment system to reward quality rather than quantity. Governor Pawlenty’s QCare executive order instructs the state agencies responsible for Medicaid and state employee health benefits to add provisions to their contracts with health plans and other vendors to help meet the goals.

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