Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's health care quality efforts with hospitals save more than $232 million statewide over three-year period

Programs are lowering costs while leading Michigan to a healthier, safer future through hospital collaborations

April 17, 2012

DETROIT — Over a three-year period, four programs sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to improve the quality of common medical procedures performed in Michigan hospitals have produced $232.8 million in health care cost savings and have lowered complication and mortality rates for thousands of patients.

The results of these four Collaborative Quality Initiatives – covering general surgery, bariatric surgery, angioplasty and cardiac surgery – were announced today by BCBSM along with the physician leaders directing the work. BCBSM's collaborative programs include more than 70 Michigan hospitals.

Watch the speakers talk about the news here.

An actuarial analysis found the program savings went beyond Blue Cross patients to benefit hospital patients throughout Michigan. In addition to benefitting Blue Cross members, about two-thirds of the savings were attributed to procedures performed on patients with Medicare or Medicaid, other private insurance plans or no insurance.

"These programs shine a spotlight on how doctors and hospitals – in partnership with a health plan – can transform health care by sharing data and improving patient outcomes in their practices," said Daniel J. Loepp, BCBSM president and CEO. "Our programs enable doctors from many health systems to share data, building a sense of trust and cooperation that has created an extraordinary catalyst for improving the quality of patient outcomes, while reducing unnecessary health care costs."

Cost savings for the four programs studied break down as follows:

  • Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative (general surgery): 2009-2010: $ 85.9 million statewide savings; $49.2million BCBSM savings 
  • Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Quality Collaborative (cardiac and thoracic surgery): 2009-2010: $30.3 million statewide savings; $2.4 million BCBSM savings 
  • BCBSM Cardiovascular Consortium (angioplasty): 2008-2010:  $102.million  statewide savings; $13.8 million BCBSM savings
  • Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative (bariatric surgery): 2008-2010:  $14.6 million statewide savings; $4.7 million BCBSM savings

"These quality improvement initiatives are truly a point of pride for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. What started as a single collaborative effort with hospitals to improve angioplasty has grown to initiatives to improve hospital care in more than 12 areas," said Thomas Simmer, BCBSM chief medical officer and senior vice president of Health Care Value.

Simmer says the quality improvement initiatives – known as CQIs – contributed to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan achieving a lower growth in medical cost trends than the national average, which helps hold down health care costs for Blues customers. 

More than 70 hospitals across Michigan, which includes all large and medium-size acute care hospitals in the state, participate in at least one CQI, and collectively, the 12 CQIs analyze the care given to nearly 200,000 Michigan patients annually. The hospitals share data to find links between medical or surgical processes and patient outcomes, and then create new processes that reduce errors, prevent complications and improve patient outcomes.

In addition to the four CQIs whose savings results were announced, eight other CQIs are underway to study cardiovascular imaging, peripheral vascular disease, blood clot prevention, breast cancer, trauma center quality, operating room safety, hip and knee replacement, and radiation treatment for cancer.

"The unique model of these Collaborative Quality Initiatives works because it's the right structure and environment for cooperative engagement," says Jack Billi, M.D., professor of Internal Medicine and associate vice president for Medical Affairs, University of Michigan Medical School. "Hospitals, physicians and their teams are learning best practices from each other and from the robust clinical data collected by the programs. The University of Michigan is proud to serve as the clinical coordinating center for 11 of the 12 CQIs."

Examples of achievements in improving quality of care:

  • Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative: Death rate following bariatric surgery fell from 0.21 percent in 2007 to 0.02 percent in 2009, a 90 percent improvement. 
  • Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging Consortium: From 2007 to 2011, the radiation dose per cardiac CT angiography procedure was reduced by 66 percent, which benefitted patients by lowering their exposure to radiation without compromising the quality of the image. 
  • Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative:  The initiative achieved an 18 percent reduction in surgical site infection and a 15 percent reduction in length of stay for hospital patients.

For more information on Collaborative Quality Initiatives, please visit

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