Mission, GE Healthcare partnership aims to reduce medical test costs

Mission President and CEO Dr. Ron Paulus announces the new partnership with GE Healthcare. Photo by Leslie Boyd

 

A new partnership between Mission Health and GE Healthcare, announced at a press conference Friday morning, could save the health care system and consumers more than $40 million in unnecessary health care costs over the decadelong course of the project.The partnership calls for optimization of imaging experience and use, as well as easing patient-care transitions.

Mission Health will use imaging equipment made by GE, which will, in turn, receive data on outcomes, and it will work with that information to speed diagnoses, assess asset utilization, reduce unnecessary repeat tests and reduce wait times for patients and clinicians.

Mission President and CEO Dr. Ron Paulus explained that many people go for imaging – X-ray, CT scan or MRI – without knowing whether the technique is appropriate and often must return for another costly test when results are not definitive. In addition, patients should be able to know the cost of their tests and be able to schedule the procedure when it’s most convenient for them.

The focus, he said, is getting patients to the right imaging method, at the right time and at the lowest cost.

One example of a useful new technology, Paulus said, would be an app that patients could use to find what they need and schedule it. Patients can schedule the test at a facility that’s closest to home or work, or based on the appointment time available or on cost, all on their smartphones.

The partnership also calls for a new patient monitoring system that will allow patients to be followed systemwide, no matter where they are – emergency department, surgery, post-op or clinic, so there are fewer lapses in getting the information necessary for treatment decisions.

“We can’t do this alone,” Paulus told a gathering to announce the partnership. “We don’t have the resources. We need partners.”

Jess Immelt, president and CEO of GE. Photo by Leslie Boyd
Jeff Immelt, president and CEO of GE. Photo by Leslie Boyd

Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, said he believes the problems of health care delivery need local and regional solutions, and that when those problems are solved through innovation, it helps to create good jobs for the region.

“It’s all about what we do next,” Immelt said.

After the announcement, Mission board member and gastroenterologist Dr. John Garrett said he is excited to see industry and medicine working together.

“They make the hardware and then work with the scientists to make it work better,” he said.

Dr. Charlie Sawyer is head of medical information for Mission. He is one of the people who collects patient information and other data for assessment.

“The first question is how you order the right test,” he said. “If I’m [Carolina Panthers quarterback] Cam Newton and I wrench my knee, I need an MRI this afternoon. But if I’m me, I can try ice and rest for a couple of days, and if that works, fine.”

Dr. Bryon Dickerson, CEO of Asheville Radiology, said each test has its own advantages, and there are times when all three are necessary, for example, to determine the properties of a tumor.

“You need to have all of the right tests and none of the wrong ones,” he said. “And the money we save will help to increase access to care.”

In addition, allowing patients to shop for care based on cost could help drive costs down, Dickerson said.

“With today’s high-deductible, high co-pay plans, patients are more likely to have to pay for tests out-of-pocket,” Dickerson said. “Of course, consumers should know the cost beforehand.”

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