All posts by Brian Strub

Equity Report Highlights Continued Gaps in Health Care Outcomes in Minnesota

A new report from MN Community Measurement (MNCM) provides a unique source of information on disparities in health care outcomes by race, ethnicity, language and country of origin.

The report includes data for 12 measures reported to MNCM in 2017 with analysis at the statewide, regional and medical group levels, and features interviews that highlight efforts to reduce the gaps in outcomes especially for populations of color in Minnesota.

“Our data show that outcomes for chronic disease and preventive care screening rates vary substantially by race, ethnicity, language and country of origin,” said Julie Sonier, MNCM President. “It is important to highlight these differences so that we can raise awareness, focus resources on reducing these inequities and track progress.”

New in the 2017 Health Equity of Care Report is trending information on the Colorectal Cancer Screening measure. The statewide colorectal cancer screening rate was 70 percent in 2014 and 73 percent in 2017. Examined by race, ethnicity, preferred language and country of origin, colorectal cancer screening is trending up for most groups. The largest increase was among patients whose preferred language is Spanish; for this group, the screening rate increased from 44 percent in 2014 to 54 percent in 2017. This represents over 2,200 more Spanish-speaking people in Minnesota getting screened for colorectal cancer.

Much of this progress can be attributed in part to local and national coordinated efforts by primary care clinicians, community organizers, cancer coalitions and others – all focusing on a shared public health goal of reaching an ambitious 80 percent screening rate for colorectal cancer. The National Colorectal Cancer Screening Roundtable leads this effort with a strong emphasis on health equity. In fact, Hispanics are a priority audience due to their low screening rates and African Americans are a priority audience due to their high incidence of colorectal cancer. One of the key messages that resonates with these audiences is that there are several screening options available, including simple take-home options. They are also encouraged to talk with their doctor about getting screened.

“It is good news that we’re making gains in colorectal cancer screening rates for most groups,” said Sonier. “However, we still have large disparities between groups that indicate the need for sustained efforts to reduce the gaps.”

The 2017 report also includes survey data that show variations in patient experience across population groups. One finding is that African American patients rated their experiences above average in four out of five patient experience categories, yet had below average results for five out of seven clinical quality measures. In contrast, despite mostly higher than average clinical quality measure outcomes, Asian patients evaluated their experience of care below the statewide average in all five categories.

“These differences highlight the fact that health care quality is multidimensional,” said Sonier. “It’s hard to know exactly why patient experience and clinical quality diverge for some population groups, but it’s our goal that these data will be used by health care providers and others to better understand the gaps and identify opportunities for improvement.”

The report includes several stories highlighting ways that these data are being used for improvement.

MNCM’s data by race, ethnicity, language and country of origin are a valuable resource that resulted from years of collaborative work to define these elements and validate best practices for collecting them. The report features information on seven clinical quality measures:

  • Adolescent Mental Health and/or Depression Screening
  • Pediatric Preventive Care: Overweight Counseling
  • Optimal Diabetes Care
  • Optimal Vascular Care
  • Optimal Asthma Care for Adults
  • Optimal Asthma Care for Children
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening

The patient experience ratings include the following five categories, in terms of whether patients:

  • Got care when needed (“Access to Care”)
  • Received understandable information and instructions (“Provider Communication”)
  • Received coordinated care defined by how often providers knew patient’s medical history, gave results of tests and asked about medications (“Care Coordination”)
  • Experienced courteous and helpful office staff (“Office Staff”)
  • Were satisfied with their provider (“Provider Rating”)

The fourth annual Health Equity of Care Report is at

About Us

MN Community Measurement is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving health by publicly reporting health care information. A trusted source of health care data and public reporting on quality, cost and patient experience since 2003, MNCM works with medical groups, health plans, employers, consumers and state agencies to spur quality improvement, reduce health care costs and maximize value. Learn more at and


MNCM’s Sonier on MPR with Kerri Miller

Julie Sonier, President of MN Community Measurement (MNCM), was the featured guest and fielded questions from callers during the January 10, 2018 edition of MPR News with Kerri Miller, a live call in radio program broadcast statewide on the stations of Minnesota Public Radio.

The cost of health care, with insight from MNCM, was the featured topic. Discussion began with a focus on a recently released report from the Minnesota Department of Health noting wide variation in the cost of certain medical procedures. The report, as Sonier noted, is similar yet different from “average cost per procedure” data produced and published annually by MNCM and posted online for the public to see at

The wide ranging, 60-minute discussion covered cost of specific procedures, reimbursement, health insurance and calls from listeners including numerous physicians. Want to hear the program? Click here to listen to the entire conversation.

“We sometimes focus too much on cost alone and we need to look at the bigger picture,” said Sonier.

“We need to look at Total Cost of Care and quality measurement to assess both the quantity and quality of health care services in addition to the price or cost of care,” added Sonier.

Read about this and other topics discussed on the daily radio program, MPR News with Kerri Miller, at this link


Matthias Joins MN Community Measurement Board

MN Community Measurement is pleased to announce Mark Matthias, MD, as its newest board member. Dr. Matthias is a physician at CentraCare Health in St. Cloud, MN where he serves as Vice President of Medical Affairs and Acute Care Division.

Dr. Matthias trained at the University of Minnesota Medical School and completed his residency in Family Practice and Community Health at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, MN. He has been a physician leader in Mankato, Hutchinson and Willmar prior to joining CentraCare Health in 2011.

Link to MN Community Measurement Board of Directors.


QCDR Webinars Provide MIPS Information on Your Schedule

MN Community Measurement’s recorded webinars allow you to gain useful insight at a time and location convenient to you and your schedule.

MNCM was asked by both the MediSota and Minnesota Rural Health Cooperative alliances to present a webinar on the MIPS program and specifically MNCM’s Qualified Clinical Data Registry on January 11. The webinar will answer questions and reveal similar information that was previously discussed in MNCM’s prior two public QCDR Webinars. View the previous MNCM webinars under the “learn more” section of the QPP/MIPS page at this link.

MIPS submissions are due to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on March 31! Please act now if you are interested in working with MNCM on this important submission.

Contact Tony Weldon at for registration and other information.


MNCM Seeks Medical Groups for COPD Measure Pilot

MN Community Measurement (MNCM) is seeking volunteers to participate in the pilot testing of a new measure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—Controlling the Impact of COPD on Health Status.

Pilot testing focuses on the development and testing of a patient reported outcome (PRO) performance measure.

Family medicine, internal medicine, geriatric medicine and pulmonology practices that care for patients with COPD are encouraged to participate in the pilot.

Eligible medical groups will be compensated for their pilot participation.

Please see for more details.


Cycle C Snapshot Results Available

As part of ongoing efforts to communicate health care performance results in a timely and user-friendly way, MNCM has created a “snapshot” from the 2017 Cycle C measure reporting period. Cycle A and Cycle B snapshots were published in the fall of 2017.

This snapshot is a summary of the Cycle C information that will be published in the Health Care Quality Report, which is anticipated to be released in early 2018. Measures in the Cycle C Snapshot include Optimal Asthma Control – Adults, Optimal Asthma Control – Children, Colorectal Cancer Screening and Maternity Care: Cesarean Section Rate.

Click here for the Cycle C Measures Snapshot link.

This information can be used to aid decision making associated with quality improvement efforts.

In 2017 (Dates of service July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017), the statewide rate for Optimal Asthma Control – Adults was 49 percent and 57 percent for Optimal Asthma Control – Children. The statewide rate for Colorectal Cancer Screening was 73 percent. For the Maternity Care: Cesarean Section Rate measure, where a lower rate can indicate better quality care, the statewide rate was 23 percent.

The Cycle C Snapshot includes links to measure results on, a table of the top medical groups by performance on Cycle C measures and information on where to access helpful provider and patient tools.

MNCN appreciate the significant contributions of clinics, medical groups, health plans, hospitals and other professional organizations that provide data to MN Community Measurement. Achieving our mission to accelerate the improvement of health by publicly reporting health care information relies on this collaborative, multi-stakeholder effort. MNCM strives to continue to be the trusted source for performance measurement, data sharing and public reporting locally and nationally.


Zimmerman Joins MN Community Measurement Board

MN Community Measurement is pleased to announce Marie Zimmerman has joined the Board of Directors.

Zimmerman has devoted more than a decade to public-sector health care in Minnesota, spearheading critical reforms and innovations that have been watched and emulated nationally. Appointed Minnesota’s Medicaid Director in 2014, Marie oversees the strategic policy direction and the core business functions of Medicaid and the Basic Health Program (BHP), called MinnesotaCare. The combined budgets of Medicaid and MinnesotaCare topped $11.5 billion in 2016 and provide health coverage to one in five Minnesotans, delivering health care, behavioral health services and long-term services and supports to more than one million people.

During Zimmerman’s tenure, the state has saved more than $1.5 billion through managed care reform and purchasing innovations. Savings include $213 million related to improved health outcomes for Medicaid enrollees through an accountable care model called Integrated Health Partnerships; a collaborative, patient-focused approach to delivering care while lowering cost. In addition, Zimmerman managed a successful Basic Health Program that provides affordable and comprehensive coverage for lower-income Minnesotans who do not qualify for Medicaid. Prior to her service as Medicaid Director, she acted as health care policy director for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, where she led early efforts to reform health care purchasing for Medicaid, moving the state toward a pay-for-value model.

Zimmerman is a recipient of the Women in Health Care Leadership Award from Women’s Health Leadership TRUST. She serves on the boards of the National Academy for State Health Policy and the National Association of Medicaid Directors. She holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Link to MN Community Measurement Board of Directors.


Christianson Joins MN Community Measurement Board

MN Community Measurement is pleased to announce Jon Christianson has joined the Board of Directors. Christianson received his PhD in economics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is on the faculty of the Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota and has held the James A. Hamilton Chair in Health Policy and Management since 1998. Professor Christianson has authored ten books and more than 200 journal articles and book chapters. He has received the Annual Research Award of the National Institute for Health Care Management and chaired AcademyHealth’s annual research meeting.

Professor Christianson’s recent research has focused on measurement and reporting of provider performance, physician payment arrangements and health care purchasers. He regularly teaches graduate courses on the health care system and on health care purchasers and health insurers. From 1998-2000, Professor Christianson served on the Institute of Medicine committee that produced the report To Err Is Human. More recently, he was a member of the IOM’s Geographic Adjustment Factors in Medicare Payment Committee and served six years on the IOM’s Board on Health Care Services which oversees all IOM health service projects. He currently is Vice-Chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress on Medicare.

Link to MN Community Measurement Board of Directors.


New Report Highlights Minnesota Health Care Cost Trends and Variation, with Overall Modest Increase in Cost Last Year

The total cost of medical care increased 3.4 percent from 2015 to 2016 for commercially-insured patients according to a new report released by MN Community Measurement (MNCM).

The report shows an increase in average costs for commercially-insured patients per month from $474 in 2015 to $490 in 2016. Growth in 2016 was lower than the previous year (5.6 percent), but higher than the 3.1 percent growth recorded in 2014.

“Although cost growth in 2016 was moderate compared to historical averages, affordability continues to be a major concern. This problem affects just about everyone, and it is one that we must work together to solve,” said Julie Sonier, MNCM President.

“This report is one way that MN Community Measurement is bringing the power of data, measurement and transparency to the health care affordability discussion here in Minnesota,” said Sonier.

The 2017 Cost and Utilization Report provides the most current comparable and validated cost of health care information, at a level of detail that provides a unique view of health care cost and the drivers of cost in Minnesota.

Report Highlights

The report includes several types of information on health care costs: average costs for 118 common medical procedures; the average total cost of care (TCOC); information on resource use and prices to provide insight and context for understanding variations or differences in total cost; and data on variations in utilization for specific types of services. These data are published at the statewide, regional and medical group levels.

Examples of findings in the 2017 Cost & Utilization Report include:

  • Costs for common medical procedures: There is substantial variation across medical groups in the amounts that they are paid for the same procedure. For example, the amount that providers are paid for an ankle X-ray averages $72, but ranges from $26 to $201. Similarly, the average payment for reading an eye chart was $6 in 2016, but ranged from $4 to $46 across different medical groups.
  • Total Cost of Care: Across the 122 medical groups included in this report, TCOC averaged $490 in 2016, with a range of $386 to $977 per patient per month on a risk adjusted basis. TCOC for men is lower than TCOC for women and lower for children than adults.
  • Resource use and price: Across medical groups, the analysis finds about a 70 percent variation in resource use and 90 percent variation in price, after accounting for patient risk.
  • Utilization of services: Analysis of emergency room use shows a three-fold difference in use after adjusting for patient illness.

“Better understanding of how much variation we have in our medical care system and what factors contribute to the variation is a starting point for strategies to make health care more affordable,” said Sonier. “The measures in this report provide unique insight for comparing and taking actions to manage and reduce health care costs.”

The report uses data from 2016 health insurance claims of more than 1.5 million commercially-insured patients (i.e. those with private health insurance, both individual and employer-sponsored) enrolled with four Minnesota health plans: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Medica and PreferredOne.

In addition to this report, MNCM publishes total cost of care and the average cost of 118 common medical procedures by medical group level on its consumer-oriented website,

View the current and previous MNCM cost of care reports here.



MNCM Announces MIPS/QPP Webinar Aug 17

MN Community Measurement (MNCM) will be hosting a 30 minute webinar on Thursday afternoon, August 17 at 1 p.m. The topic will be an introductory conversation about the upcoming Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) under the Quality Payment Program (QPP).

MNCM was recently named a Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR) and is a CMS-approved entity that collects clinical data on behalf of clinicians for data submission. MNCM is now able to assist clinician group practices in meeting MIPS (formerly PQRS) requirements for the 2017 reporting year. The MNCM QCDR service will seamlessly submit quality measures and improvement activities to CMS.

The webinar is free and those wishing to participate can visit the following link to attend. Please save this link to join the webinar at 1:00 pm on August 17,

The proven MNCM Direct Data Submission (DDS) reporting platform is currently used by clinics and medical groups for state reporting. The MNCM QCDR is an enhancement of the DDS to help you comply with federal MIPS and MACRA requirements. For more details click HERE.


Snapshots Provide Preview of Health Care Quality Report Results

As part of ongoing efforts to communicate health care performance results in a timely and user-friendly way, MNCM has created “snapshots” from the 2017 Cycle A and Cycle B measure reporting periods.

These snapshots include Optimal Diabetes Care, Optimal Vascular Care and Depression Care from Cycle A and Adolescent Mental Health and/or Depression Screening and Overweight Counseling from Cycle B that will be published in the Health Care Quality Report, which is anticipated to be released in January 2018.

This information can be used to aid decision making associated with quality improvement efforts.

In 2017 (2016 Dates of Service), the statewide rate for Optimal Diabetes Care is 45 percent and 62 percent for Optimal Vascular Care. The statewide rate for Depression Remission at Six Months is 8 percent. Overweight Counseling is 90 percent and 73 percent for Adolescent Mental Health and/or Depression Screening. Clinic and medical group level results are publicly reported on our consumer website, The site provides this information in convenient, sortable tables to view, download and/or print.

MNCM appreciates the significant contributions of clinics, medical groups, health plans, hospitals and other professional organizations that provide data to MN Community Measurement. Achieving our mission to accelerate the improvement of health by publicly reporting health care information relies on this collaborative, multi-stakeholder effort. MNCM strives to continue to be the trusted source for performance measurement, data sharing and public reporting locally and nationally.