A nonprofit charged with transforming health care for 50,000 uninsured or low income Travis County residents has an aggressive time frame to develop a system that is focused on keeping patients healthier and holding costs down.
Dr. Mark Hernandez, chief medical officer of the nonprofit Community Care Collaborative, told its board Tuesday thathe expects development of the new integrated health system to be done by Nov. 15. After that, the changes will roll out.
This collaboration between the public Central Health hospital district and the private Seton Healthcare Family is relying on higher property taxes that Travis County voters approved in November to finance health care improvement projects along with a planned Austin medical school. The projects are aimed at better coordinating the care patients receive and “promoting wellness,” Hernandez said.
They include expanding clinic hours to reduce emergency room visits; creating a registry to track and treat patients with chronic diseases, and using technology in clinics to consult with mental health professionals to aid patients on the spot.
The collaborative will develop protocols and best practices for managing patients, and those efforts will be measured to gauge effectiveness. Some could be dropped later, but Hernandez said in an interview that he expects most of them to work out.
“We have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform health care delivery in Travis County,” said Hernandez, who is employed by Seton and led its clinical integration program.
The work will change the health care culture and empower medical professionals to be agents of change, he said. One measure of success will be positive feedback from patients and providers, he told the board.
“We don’t want to rush the planning and plan something that doesn’t work,” Hernandez said in an interview. But “I’m being aggressive with my timetables” because of the complexity of dealing with multiple partners.
The collaborative will work with other health care providers in Austin, including Seton, and finance projects with local tax dollars and federal matching money that could amount to $237 million between now and Sept. 30, 2016. An additional $198 million could go to two Seton hospitals, University Medical Center Brackenridge and Dell Children’s Medical Center, for a separate slate of projects.
Hernandez’s team will work with a 10-member advisory committee that the board named Tuesday consisting of Central Health and Seton officials. His team also will work with the collaborative board and possibly the boards of Seton and Central Health.
“I think by Christmas we are going to have … small pilots or implementation projects in place,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of work to do, and the intensity and volume are going to ramp up over the next six months.”
The projects are part of the state’s 1115 Medicaid wavier program, being administered by U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The Medicare agency tentatively approved nine of 14 collaborative projects. Four are being resubmitted, and a fifth is being replaced by a project that provides patients with navigators to help them get the right care, said Jeff Knodel, Central Health’s chief financial officer.
The board approved Knodel’s request to increase the nonprofit’s $9 million budget by $20.6 million, mainly to pay for health care delivery projects between now and the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.