Quality Improvement Interview: Fallon Community Health Plan

Fallon Community Health Plan has established itself at the top of the charts for the past three years on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Medicare Advantage Star Ratings.  This year, the plan once again received 4.5 stars, an indicator of its commitment to – and success at – providing high quality health care to its members.

We spoke with Beth Foley, senior director of Quality Services at Fallon, about the health plan’s performance, including its strengths, areas of improvement and measures on which it is focusing.

Because of the plan’s history as an integrated staff model, in which preventive medicine is integral to patient care, Fallon has traditionally done very well on preventive and screening measures. A substantial portion of the health plan’s Medicare membership is seen by a provider network with which Fallon has a close working relationship.

It is due in part to this connection, along with a robust electronic medical record, that screening and preventive measures have remained a particular strength of Fallon’s. As Foley says, it is second nature to make sure members are getting their screenings. “That’s what we’re all about.”

Fallon also performed highly on the Care for Older Adults measure of the Star Ratings, pertaining to Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan (SNP) enrollees (vulnerable populations who include dual-eligibles and those with chronic conditions). Foley attributes the plan’s significant improvement to supplemental data sources, more vigorous outreach to physicians and better documentation of medications and functional status assessments.

Fallon’s quality in this area is particularly significant to their members, as most of its members are in their 80s and 90s.

One of the most valuable aspects to the Star Ratings is the ability to benchmark data and set goals for improvement. There are always areas in which plans can improve, and the quality data facilitates these efforts. Currently, Fallon is focusing on the readmissions measure, which needs to be at 5 percent to receive top marks.

The plan is looking to bring the “navigator model,” used for its SNP NaviCare, into their general Medicare Advantage plan.

NaviCare, as Foley explains, is a highly successful care model that employs a comprehensive care team to look after patients. She expects that this will help to coordinate care, resulting in better medication adherence, better health outcomes and fewer readmissions.

Because of the ability to see how current performance stacks up against prior performance – as well as the ratings of other organizations – Fallon is able to set informed, attainable goals and focus on achieving them.


Quality Improvement Interview: Scott & White Health Plan

For 2012-2013, Scott & White Health Plan received five stars – the highest rating possible – on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Medicare Advantage Star Ratings for their Part D plan. The Medicare Part D plan includes prescription drug coverage and is rated on measures such as customer service, member complaints, member experience with the drug plan and patient safety.

According to Charlotte Luebbert, director of Pharmacy Medicare Part D Services at Scott & White, the health plan is excelling in the areas of customer service, member experience and resolving member complaints. Scott & White is an integrated health system, meaning that in addition to a health plan, the organization includes a hospital and clinical provider network. Introducing new initiatives works well in this structure, as there are built-in lines of communication with members and providers.

Communication is integral to efficiency, coordinated efforts and physician buy-in. The plan corresponds with primary care physicians on a quarterly basis, with clinical messaging related to all lines of business. The method is well-received by all providers, Luebbert affirms.

Aided by an in-house customer service department, Scott & White is demonstrating success in improving customer service and keeping member complaints low. Service representatives are well educated on the plan’s Medicare Part D product, and provide members with efficient, accurate and personalized attention.

Another advantage to the plan’s pharmacy customer service department is the background of the representatives: All pharmacy call service agents are pharmacy technicians, meaning they possess a comprehensive understanding of pharmaceutical issues. Luebbert repeatedly emphasizes the importance of understanding to the representatives – the need to understand benefits, how to help members and alternatives at the point of service.

For example, member complaints are routed to specialized agents who are well versed in dealing with Medicare complaints, and who work with members to identify the roots of the issues. With such personalized service complaints are addressed efficiently and quickly.

In the Patient Safety domain, Scott & White has earned five stars on all of the medication adherence measures. These measures relate to Part D benefit design; Scott & White offers a generous maintenance benefit in which members are eligible for reduced copays for 90-day supplies of maintenance medications. Vice President of Pharmacy John Chaddick believes that this serves as an incentive for adherence. The plan’s clinical initiatives focus on making sure benefit designs are cost-conscious and give seniors benefits that encourage compliance.

Chaddick and Luebbert also highlight the plan’s focus on the High Risk Medication (HRM) measure, on which Scott & White’s rating improved from 2012 to 2013. A new initiative identifies and addresses the use of HRMs in the Medication Therapy Management (MTM) population, and provides targeted member and physician education to encourage use of alternative medications. Thanks to the plan’s direct communication with pharmacists, primary care physicians and patients, the initiative will be fully implemented in the next one to two months.

Effective communication is key to a quality member experience, emphasizes Luebbert. It is especially important to make sure that people have access to ample information during the open enrollment period, in which seniors can switch Medicare coverage options.

“U.S. Health Care: The Good News” T.R. Reid PBS Documentary


In his new hour-long documentary airing tonight, Former Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid travels around the country exploring the cost disparities of medical services and care. His aim was to find successful models of high-quality and affordable health care – no small achievement in the United States, where we continue to struggle with controlling health care costs. He discovered that many doctors and hospitals across the nation actually have very effective models for providing excellent health care at a reasonable price. The documentary highlights two ACHP member plans: Rocky Mountain Health Plans in Grand Junction, Colorado and Group Health Cooperative in Seattle. These two health care plans have developed systems that can sustain high-quality health care for all of their members at lower costs, and they enjoy strong community support. Reid notes that Rocky Mountain Health Plans have implemented a payment model that pays for high-quality care and sanctions low quality care, and requires openness for all enrollees, including those in Medicaid. Reid also features Group Health Cooperative’s mostly integrated system that has provided a solid ground for an effective medical home. He says that “If every local health care system could be as efficient as the low-spending communities spotlighted in this film, we could finally afford to provide quality health care at a reasonable cost for every American.”

The documentary will premiere Thursday, February 16 at 9pm ET; in the Washington DC Metro area, it will be aired on Channel 26 (WETA) on Tuesday, February 21 at 11pm.