Dell Medical School receives gift to study UT Health Austin care model
Dell Medical School at the University of Texas has received a $2.26 million gift from Eric and Shanna Bass to study the impact of its health care approach on patient outcomes and costs.
Eric Bass, a hedge fund manager in Houston, earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the McCombs School of Business at UT in 1998. He has an interest in improving the business of health care.
Through its foundation, the Bass family previously provided a $1 million donation to Comp-U-Dopt to give 5,000 computers to students in need at the beginning of the pandemic and another $1 million donation to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to provide housing for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey.
The gift to Dell Medical School will pay for resources to conduct a three-year study on the “360-degree care” model developed by the Musculoskeletal Institute at UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of the medical school.
The model looks at the whole patient, providing resources such as a dietitian to help with weight loss, a smoking cessation program, cognitive behavioral therapy and physical therapy in addition to surgeons to do procedures such as injections and joint replacements.
“The mission of Dell Medical School is to revolutionize how people get and stay healthy,” said Dr. Kevin Bozic, the chair of the school’s department of surgery and perioperative care. One of the ways the school is doing that, he said, is by creating new models of care and new models of payment that are “aligned at achieving better health outcomes at a lower cost.”
This study is specifically enrolling patients who have knee pain from osteoarthritis to see whether patient outcomes and costs are improved by having a medical practice provide an on-site care team with options beyond surgery.
The goal, said Dr. Karl Koenig, director of the Musculoskeletal Institute, “is not how many knee replacement surgeries I did, but did I make your pain better?”
That could be achieved through knee replacement surgery. It also could happen through weight loss, cognitive behavioral therapy or physical therapy, or a combination of care options. The institute already has used an artificial intelligence program to study which patients would most benefit from knee surgeries based on similar cases and patient surveys.
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To determine patient outcomes, researchers will survey people about their pain levels and satisfaction levels.
The study will track the cost of providing care by using Bluetooth technology worn by each patient and each provider to track in real time when and for how long a patient interacts with each professional on the team.
The 360-degree care model has changed the way UT Health Austin bills insurance companies for a patient’s care. Instead of billing for each doctor visit, each dietitian visit, each mental health appointment and each physical therapy appointment, it bills a total fee for patient care for the year. Everything during that year is covered by that one fee, much like how maternity care is handled. If the patient decides to have surgery, there’s a separate fee charged by the hospital, but the doctor’s fees for surgery would be covered under that annual fee.
UT Health Austin and Dell Medical School have been working with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Innovation Center for this new model of payment.
Researchers will compare UT Health Austin’s outcomes and costs to another medical practice tied to another university that has a more traditional “fee for service” model of care. The same Bluetooth technology and surveys will be used at that other center.
Bozic said the study “will really allow us to get in depth and understand what we are doing on health outcomes and costs and allow us to improve the model based on the feedback we get.”
Since the Musculoskeletal Institute began treating patients four years ago, staffers have been testing and improving the 360-degree care model, including adding cognitive behavioral therapists and weight loss programs.
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The goal of the 360-degree care model, Koenig said, “is to make the health care system work for you. It’s not an uncommon thing for a someone to break down crying because they can’t believe how invested we are.”
The model has had many groups interested in seeing it at work. Once a quarter the Musculoskeletal Institute hosts a two-day program to bring representatives from insurance companies, patient advocacy groups and medical practices to UT Health Austin to check out the model and “kick the tires,” Bozic said.
The hope is the study will prove that 360-degree care provides better health outcomes and reduces cost of care, making it easier for insurance companies to embrace this model and other medical organizations to adopt it.
If the study doesn’t show those types of results, Bozic said, “then we evolve.”