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URI webinar series to promote health system transformation

Virtual learning series geared toward state’s, country’s healthcare workforce

The United States has the most expensive health care system in the world, but consistently ranks far down the list in terms of quality of care. Among the 11 wealthiest nations in the world, the U.S. has the worst performing health care system, and studies show medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the country, just behind heart disease and cancer.

“We’re spending a ton of money on health care — $3.2 trillion a year — but we’re not receiving value in terms of outcomes,” said University of Rhode Island Professor Betty Rambur, the College of Nursing’s Routhier Endowed Chair for Practice. “Given the waste, inefficiency and harm, transforming health care is not only an economic imperative, it is an ethical one.”

Misplaced economic incentives are considered a key driver of these poor results. Fee-for-service systems — known as volume-based care, in which individual services are billed separately — can lead to risky overtreatment and unnecessary testing that drives up costs without improving results, Rambur said. Health care systems are transitioning to value-based care, in which healthcare providers are paid based on patient outcomes, rather than the amount of services provided. But that transition is slow, Rambur said, largely due to an adherence to past practice, archaic payment models and a lack of awareness of the importance of value-based change.

To increase awareness of the issue and help spur the change, Rambur is spearheading a series of webinars to enhance health care professionals’ knowledge of health system science and promote understanding of health system transformation concepts. The 50- to 90-minute programs — funded by a $119,000 grant from the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Health System Transformation Project — aim to educate health care workers on such topics as value-based payments, care management, social determinants of health, health equity, population health, telehealth and data analytics.

The series is slated to begin March 27 at 1 p.m. with Dr. Ben Littenberg, a primary care physician, professor of medicine and nursing, director of General Internal Medicine, and director of the Graduate Program in Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Vermont. In his presentation, Dr. Littenberg will overview the integration of behavioral health into primary care, an issue on which he is leading an $18 million multi-state research project.

Webinars will be offered monthly, and are tentatively scheduled for the last Tuesday of each month. Expected topics include alternative payment models, team-based care, predictive analytics for performance improvement, virtual care and more. Each session will be presented and archived on the URI Academic Health Collaborative website at https://web.uri.edu/ahc/hstc/.

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