Kids throughout Tampa Bay will now receive enhanced coordinated care and increased access to specialists that will improve outcomes and ultimately save lives – thanks to an ambitious, data-driven initiative.
St. Petersburg’s Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital recently launched the first and only pediatric clinically integrated network (CIN) on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Community physicians from Hernando to Charlotte County now share best practices, patient records, clinical data and other resources to benefit patients and providers.
Dr. Tony Napolitano, chair of the All Children’s Care Network (ACCN), said the extensive collaboration would reduce avoidable and costly hospital stays and trips to emergency rooms. It also increases the likelihood that kids and their physicians – especially those in rural areas – receive the highest quality care.
“I think it improves the health of children,” Napolitano said. “I think that’s what your goal is – to really improve the lives of the children you’re caring for.
“So, does it save lives? Yeah.”
The ACCN is a physician-led and governed organization focused exclusively on pediatric patients. Napolitano said team members could speak directly to families, explain processes and ensure kids receive the proper medications and treatments.
Those aspects combine to optimize long-term health outcomes, he added. Gerrit VanBruggen, senior director of strategy, said CIN officials would collectively work to identify and share best practices throughout the region as part of network resources that many stakeholders “don’t have available today.”
As with many new initiatives, data and analytics are at the forefront of what the St. Pete institution hopes to accomplish through the ACCN. He noted All Children’s has a team that “surrounds those resources.”
“That team then helps make sense of all this information,” VanBruggen said. “And provides it to the physicians in a way that helps to be successful in quality metrics, preventative measures and interventions that will ultimately help the kids of Florida be more healthy.”
He elaborated that various healthcare industry sources compile extensive – and siloed – patient data. The ACCN website states that it helps stakeholders “see through walls.”
One of ACCN’s primary functions is establishing an infrastructure that allows its leadership to gather information in one repository and disseminate it to independent healthcare providers. VanBruggen said the goal is better understanding how various interventions from different physicians impact pediatric patients.
Once ascertained, network officials can then establish best practices and improve outcomes. He relayed that several providers have said industry communication “just isn’t what it was before.”
Napolitano added that families want to know that primary care providers and specialists are on the same page.
“I think that is very important,” he said. “Families want to make sure that their doctor is talking to the specialist and really understanding their child.”
VanBruggen explained that children in rural areas might not have the same access to specialized care as pediatric patients in St. Pete or Tampa. Communication and data sharing throughout the network make that expertise more readily available to smaller practices.
VanBruggen noted that more complex treatments, like oncology and cardiology services, will always require specialized interventions like those found at All Children’s. However, sharing the latest best practices could lead to more accurate diagnoses and reduce the need for travel.
“As the network matures, I think that’s definitely a possibility,” VanBruggen added. “That is one of our ultimate goals – to get providers talking together. Whether it be specialists, pediatricians and others that support the care, and ultimately, providing more care in that pediatrician’s office than they’re able to provide today.”
The ACCN recently contracted with Sunshine Health, a Florida Medicaid health plan, to provide a new value-based care agreement. That collaboration includes 160 primary care physicians and advanced practice providers representing nearly 60,000 kids throughout the region.
VanBruggen explained that the contract allows the ACCN “to provide first care management resource to patients.” He said the physician-led network would assume some of the care management responsibilities typically held by health plan officials.
“We’re extending the reach of what these providers can do today and not being as reliant on insurance providers as we traditionally would be,” VanBruggen said. “We’re also looking at mechanisms within our contract to keep kids out of the emergency room.”
He relayed that 40% of pediatric emergency room patients don’t belong in those facilities. VanBruggen said improved preventative efforts and better management between pediatricians and specialists could mitigate many of those visits, decreasing medical costs for everyone.
“We see this as the future in health care for children,” he said. “We really believe it raises the level of care for kids in the area.”