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What Can Florida and Vermont Learn from Utah about High Quality, Low-Cost Health Care?


Price is one thing, but what does it actually cost hospitals to provide care?

University of Utah Health Care CEO Vivian Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., isn't the first industry leader to ask that question. But she's among the few who can answer it.

A cost and quality data-mining project that she set into motion years ago has given front line providers at the University of Utah the information they need to streamline care, be more patient-centered and improve outcomes—and that has helped the system get a handle on its costs. While health care spending continues to rise nationally, "we're bending the cost curve," she told a Florida legislative committee on Monday. "No one told us it was impossible. We just started doing it."

Lee also shared lessons learned from being the first academic medical center in the country to publish its patient satisfaction ratings. The seven-year effort helped pave the way for a discussion about costs by building a culture of transparency and continual learning, Lee said. "What is so powerful about giving the doctors the numbers themselves is that they are coming up with ways [for improving care] that we as administrators or health plan people might not have come up with, because they're on the front lines."

Lee's 30-minute testimony via Skype mirrored a presentation that she delivered in November to members of the Vermont Legislature. The two states may be world's apart from Utah in terms of their politics and demographics. But the economics of health care and disruptive influences are the same.

"It's great to hear that things we've been told are not possible, are possible," said Republican Rep. Jose Oliva.