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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

San Francisco May Save $15 Million Via 'Coordinated Healthcare'

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 2:59 PM

click to enlarge Now he'll be required to send the doll's data to the hospital -- and vice versa
  • Now he'll be required to send the doll's data to the hospital -- and vice versa

When SF Weekly yesterday broke the story that the city is entering into a novel "coordinated healthcare" program that may save millions of dollars, we noted that the pitch sounded an awful lot like something you'd hear from a used car dealer.

Turns out we didn't know the half of it.

The city's hospitals, doctor's groups, and healthcare providers will coordinate data and, ostensibly, save a bundle through increased efficiency. This leads to San Francisco not having to pay higher premiums to cover its workers. That's right -- they passing the savings on to us!

And how much might we save? It warrants mentioning that at today's City Hall press conference, none of the nine speakers bothered to mention this somewhat relevant tidbit of information. Afterward, however, Blue Shield's Tom Epstein and Catherine Dodd, the director of the city's Health Service System, said the savings are conservatively projected to be in the range of $10 million to $15 million in the course of the coming fiscal year. 

Notions of "increased efficiency" in healthcare conjure up nightmarish images of selling grandma off to the glue factory. As SF Weekly noted yesterday, that's not what's going on here (certainly no glue factory reps were present at today's presser).

The data-sharing agreement between competing health agencies would mandate communications between general practitioners, hospitals, specialists, and others. Hospital patients' subsequent appointments with GPs will be booked before they even leave the hospital. Citing data from a similar 2010 pilot program in Sacramento, Supervisor Carmen Chu today said government employees in the capital enjoyed a 30 percent reduction in hospital readmissions, a 15 percent percent drop in hospital stays, and a 7.6 percent decline in emergency room visits.

Administering those services costs money -- so by doing it less, health providers save dollars. City health officials, in turn, hopes those savings are -- you guessed it -- passed on to them.

Dodd tells SF Weekly that not spending more is the new spending less. While health premiums tend to jump nearly 7 percent a year nationwide, San Francisco's won't budge at all next year per this deal. She hopes this will become a longterm trend.

Because whether it's better to look good or to feel good -- it's always good to be fiscally solvent. 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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