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OUR HEALTH IS OUR COMMON WEALTH: THE HEALTHYMASS INITIATIVE by JudyAnn Bigby, M.D.

Last month, the Patrick Administration launched HealthyMass, an historic health initiative designed to make Massachusetts a healthier place to live and work. Nine agencies from across state government—in their roles as employers, purchasers, providers, regulators, insurers, administrators, stewards of public health, and potential sources of health care financing—committed to collaborating to achieve five goals that reflect the values and principles of the Patrick Administration.

By aligning policies and practices, these agencies will work together to ensure access to care; contain health care costs; advance health care quality; promote individual wellness; and develop healthy communities. Collaboration is the key to success, and working together with those in state government—as well as other key stakeholders—will be essential. Early on in our work, we will decrease administrative burdens on providers; adopt strategies to improve quality of care; focus on decreasing the impacts of chronic disease; and align payments to support primary care and community hospitals.

Pay for performance initiatives are increasingly recognized as a strategy for improving health care quality, and many payers have adopted this strategy.

Providers are clamoring for coordination of performance measures across payers, so that they do not waste time and resources capturing and measuring unique outcomes for every payer. Collectively, the GIC, Commonwealth Connector and MassHealth cover more than 1.6 million people in the Commonwealth and contract with many of the same providers. One of our initial HealthyMass strategies will coordinate and align performance measures and incentives across these state agencies. Aligning our policies will amplify the impact on quality of care and simplify the processes for providers who must meet the performance standards.

We will also improve efficiencies and reduce the burden on and expense to providers by consolidating the processes through which they submit common data to different state agencies. By streamlining administrative functions, the state will also gain greater flexibility and efficiency in accessing and using the data.

According to an October report from the Milken Institute, Massachusetts ranks 40th in the nation in its burden of chronic disease, which negatively impacts the state's economy because of associated health care costs and the health of our workforce. Through the HealthyMass initiative, state agencies will work together and with partners in the private and nonprofit sectors to develop a coordinated approach to prevention and management of chronic diseases – starting with obesity and diabetes. This effort will focus on individual and community wellness and prevention; the elimination of gaps in early diagnosis of diabetes; coordinated disease management that will reduce the incidence of diabetes across the state (especially within racial and ethnic minority communities); and decrease unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

We will also develop alternative payment strategies that prioritize the delivery of high quality, efficient and effective health care, and hold providers accountable for specific outcomes. Reform of the current payment system will allow for better care—rather than just more care—and care in the right place.

The HealthyMass initiative represents a genuine transformation in how we approach health and health care in Massachusetts. Our cross-agency efforts will work towards a more comprehensive approach to health that recognizes the inextricable links between cost, quality, access and prevention and wellness. Our motto is “Our Health is Our Commonwealth.”

JudyAnn Bigby
Secretary for Health and Human Services

This program aired on January 24, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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