All posts in Feature Articles

Report shows massive racial disparities in health care

Lorna Benson · Feb 10, 2016

White Minnesotans tend to receive better health care than people of color, a new report compiled by MN Community Measurement indicates.

Generally, white and Asian patients had the highest rates of optimal care, while American Indian and black patients usually had the lowest rates, according to the report. The analysis draws on data collected from Minnesota clinics and patients.

Jim Chase, president of MN Community Measurement, said the extent of the racial disparities varied widely by location.

“It’s not just that the results are different between whites and everybody else,” he said. “There are differences between different, new immigrant groups, and different results across different areas of the state.”

For example, the colon cancer screening rate for African-Americans is within 7 percentage points of the rate for whites, both in the east metro and northwest Minnesota.

“You contrast that to somewhere like southwest Minnesota and the gap is about 34 percentage points. It’s huge between African-Americans at the 35 percent rate (for colon cancer screening) and the white population at 69 (percent),” Chase said.

The report also assessed patient satisfaction, including whether patients felt respected and whether they would recommend their clinic to family and friends. Patients with better health outcomes typically rated their overall care experiences better as well.


States let commercial walk-in health clinics grow unregulated

By Michael Ollove, Stateline
Chicago Sun Times
January 5, 2016

When walk-in health clinics started spreading rapidly in the mid-2000s, the nation’s biggest and most prestigious medical organizations voiced objections. They raised concerns about patient safety, gaps in patients’ medical records, conflicts of interest and disruptions of the relationship between patients and their doctors.

Doctors also worried that increased competition from the clinics would hurt their practices, which seldom could match the clinics’ convenient operating hours.


How Total Cost of Care Transparency Aids Payment Reform

By Verna Gruessner, HealthPayer Intelligence
December 10, 2015

“Having a broader picture of the cost is critically important… Practices can compare themselves to others and take action to reduce overall costs.”

What’s the first step in addressing methods for reducing medical costs and strengthening healthcare delivery? Improving transparency behind healthcare spending as well as educating stakeholders in the financial aspects of the medical industry is one of the very first steps to take.

In pursuit of this goal, the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI) has brought a tremendous amount of energy to leading the Total Cost of Care project, which aims to identify the entire cost paid for healthcare services received at the individual level in a given period of time.


OUR OPINION: Mental health screening for youths needs to be priority

Le Center Leader Editorial
December 15, 2015

Mental health issues too often remain a hidden story, particularly in rural Minnesota, in which resources and health professionals are limited. For our children it becomes even more complex, but critically important that screenings are routinely done.

A recent state study revealed that only 40 percent of Minnesota teenagers are being screened for mental health conditions. The Minnesota Community Measurement and Minnesota Department of Health released the study, which considered two key health care issues: mental health condition screening for teenagers and obesity counseling for youths.


43 States Earn Failing Grades On Doctor Quality Information

By Bruce Japsen, Forbes
November 18, 2015

Despite moves by health insurers and the federal government toward providing publicly available information on physicians, most states fail when it comes to doctor transparency, a new report shows.

The Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute flunked 40 states and the District of Columbia with a grade of “F” while three other states received a “D,” which is also considered failing. This means nearly 90% of U.S. states aren’t providing easy access or any access to information to help consumers make informed choices when they pick a physician.

“The vast majority of Americans simply don’t have access to local information on the quality of physician care,” Francois de Brantes, executive director of the Institute, known as “HCI3 in the industry, said in a statement accompanying the report, “State Report Card on Transparency of Physician Quality Information.”

California joined Minnesota and Washington to earn an “A” grade for their quality reporting. Minnesota’s efforts are increasingly looked at as a model given statewide effort to compare doctor practices on several performance measures as well as a patient’s experience in the doctor’s office. The Minnesota HealthScores web site compares doctor practices on how well they get their patients’ preventive care and wellness screenings.

The other states with passing grades were Maine, which received a “B,” while “C” grades were awarded to Massachusetts, Oregon and Wisconsin.

The results are disappointing given the push by employers, insurers and consumer groups for more transparency, particularly as Americans face higher deductibles and related cost-sharing that force them to shop for better health care buys.

Health plans like Aetna, Anthem, Cigna and UnitedHealth Group have their own measurements health plan subscribers can access but consumers are often less trusting of insurance company rankings. The information from states earning passing grades from HCI3 ranking generally come directly from the doctor practice.

Read the original Forbes article


Teen mental health concerns surface in new Minnesota clinic study

MPR News Staff ·

Only 40 percent of Minnesota youth received a mental health screening as part of their preventive checkups last year. Of those, 1 in 10 showed signs of depression or other mental health concerns, state officials said Thursday.

The results come from a first-ever analysis of Minnesota health clinics. The study shows clinics are doing well in counseling children on obesity but suggests they’re falling short on mental health evaluation.

Of the 98,000 3- to 17-year-olds in Minnesota who had a wellness exam last year, 29 percent were considered overweight or obese, slightly lower than the national average. Of those kids who were screened, 85 percent were counseled about nutrition and exercise by their provider the Minnesota Department of Health said.

While officials were encouraged by the nutrition counseling rate, they remain concerned about data indicating less than half the state’s clinics are screening adolescents for depression.

“When clinicians did screen for depression, they found 9.7 percent — or 4,300 of 43,400 young people screened — had indications of a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety or attention disorders,” the department said, noting that “untreated depression in adolescence has been tied to an increase in social isolation, academic failure, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, tobacco use and suicide.”


Most Minnesota kids not getting mental health screenings

Fewer than half of adolescents taken to Minnesota clinics for well-child exams last year were screened for mental health or depression, according to a report released on Thursday.

But among the 43,400 youngsters who were screened, 4,300 — or 9.7 percent — had indications of a condition such as depression, anxiety or attention disorders, according to the report by the state Department of Health and MN Community Measurement, a nonprofit dedicated to publicly reporting health care information.

The screenings matter, said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the nonprofit National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota.

“One thing we forget is that mental illnesses are a young person’s illness,” Abderholden said. “Most people begin experiencing the symptoms before the age of 26 and half before the age of 14. With any illness, we know that identifying it early and treating it, that’s when you have the best outcome.”


Altru costs high for region, in line with Minnesota average

Altru costs high for region, in line with Minnesota average

Altru Health System patients and their health insurance providers pay more for their care on average compared with patients at regional competitors but pay close to the Minnesota statewide average, according to a recent report.

A 2015 MN Community Measurement report analyzing medical costs in the state and neighboring communities found Altru patients and their insurance plans pay an overall average cost of $502 per patient per month. That’s higher than patients of Fargo-based Sanford Health’s many Minnesota clinics and patients of rural clinics near Fosston and Crookston.

However, Altru patients and their plans pay an average amount compared with the overall average cost in Minnesota, which is $449 per patient per month, according to the organization’s Total Cost of Care report.


At HCMC, healthy doesn’t mean more costly

At HCMC, healthy doesn’t mean more costly

Mark Zdechlik ·


St. Cloud Medical Group ranks high at keeping costs low

Kevin Allenspach, 6:44 p.m. CDT September 19, 2015

To combat the ever-rising costs of health care, some providers are concentrating on innovations like e-visits, patient portal accounts and accountable care organizations.

St. Cloud Medical Group has been among the most successful in Minnesota at keeping expenses down, according to the second report in as many years issued by a nonprofit industry watchdog.

The total cost of care per patient, per month at St. Cloud Medical Group was $385 — eighth-lowest in the state among 132 medical groups — in results compiled by MN Community Measurement from actual patient costs last year.

That was 14 percent below the state average of $449, which increased 3.2 percent from the inaugural survey released in 2014.


Minnesota’s medical costs rose in 2014 but varied widely clinic to clinic

Minnesota’s medical costs rose in 2014 but varied widely clinic to clinic


The total cost of medical care varies dramatically across Minnesota — from $823 per month for patients who receive their primary care at the Mayo Clinic to just $381 at a pair of suburban Twin Cities medical groups.

The average medical bill was somewhere in between: $449 per month for the average privately insured patient, according to the second annual Total Cost of Care report, released Thursday by MN Community Measurement.

The report also found that improving quality and patient satisfaction apparently has come at a price: A 3 percent increase from 2013 to 2014 in the cost of patient care.

While unmasking high-cost providers might motivate them to change, the main goal is to learn from providers that bucked the trend and lowered costs, said Jim Chase, president of Community Measurement, a nonprofit agency, which based the data on claims paid by Minnesota’s four largest health insurers.


Ranking: The average test price, medical bill at clinics across Minnesota

Ranking: The average test price, medical bill at clinics across Minnesota

By Shaymus McLaughlin

The price for medical tests and procedures – from an X-ray to a glucose measurement – jumped up 6 percent in 2014. And your overall medical bill likely went up too.