Medical device maker Medtronic has formed a first-of-its-kind arrangement with a U.S. hospital system to collaborate and share data in an effort to reduce costs of care for 500,000 people by up to $100 million.
Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley Health Network and Minnesota-run Medtronic formally unveiled the strategic partnership on Wednesday. It calls for the two organizations to improve efficiency and expand access to care for things like lung cancer, weight-loss surgery and respiratory compromise.
The agreement between the eight-hospital health system and the global device maker could grow to encompass as many as 70 different medical conditions, from the dozen or so that are in place today.
Few details of the agreement were made public Wednesday, but executives did say that neither side is directly paying the other for the services provided. Some initiatives may lead to more sales and use of Medtronic devices, and more patients for Lehigh Valley Health Network, but those effects are a byproduct of the larger goal to improve patient care.
"Success is increased revenue and decreased costs, combined with — and this is the important part — a better patient outcome, patient for patient," said Boston surgeon Dr. Michael Tarnoff, a chief medical officer with Medtronic. "Patients end up getting served better. Lehigh ends up serving more patients, hence their revenue goes up. Medtronic wins because there is more thoughtful care using our devices. And at the same time, we are taking cost out."
Three specific examples were offered:
• Bariatric surgery for weight loss, for which Medtronic offers a comprehensive product line, reduces costs later in life for conditions like diabetes and heart disease. But 70 percent of people who attend information sessions don't get the surgery. Under the agreement, Medtronic and the hospital will come up with ways to increase awareness and access to the procedure.
• Respiratory compromise is a condition in which hospital patients' ability to breathe is degraded to the point that they might go into respiratory failure or die if left undetected, costing hospitals $18,000 per patient for each episode. Medtronic offers a portfolio of "capnography" devices that can detect early signs of compromise to allow earlier interventions. With greater use of these noninvasive devices, the two entities hope to reduce adverse events by 20 percent.
• Lung cancer is more curable when it is treated earlier, but a lack of early symptoms and problems in care systems can lead to long delays in diagnosis and treatment. Medtronic offers products to detect and treat lung cancer. Under the agreement, the company will work with the health system to design a "best in class" system to detect and treat lung cancers, using Medtronic's expertise in imaging, data analysis, and image-guided interventions.
"It's a win-win," said Debbie Salas-Lopez, an internal medicine doctor and chief transformation officer for Lehigh Valley Heath Network. "It's about improving care, improving patient outcomes over the journey of a lifetime of a patient, and it is about reducing costs. There is great alignment from the top in terms of the mission and vision of the organizations."
Lehigh Valley Health Network is one of the most "wired" health systems in the nation, making extensive use of electronic medical records and related tools to guide patients through the system and understand changing patient needs using real-time data, according to professional associations like the Health Information and Management Systems Society.
Medtronic in recent years has formed agreements with many organizations interested in creating or analyzing massive patient data systems, from IBM Watson to UnitedHealth Group to the Mayo Clinic. Medtronic has also formed service-oriented arrangements with hospitals in Europe and elsewhere, and in 2016 the company announced an agreement with the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center to operate heart-catheterization and electrophysiology labs for the system.
But Wednesday's five-year strategic partnership agreement with the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) is the first with a U.S. provider that includes data-sharing and a framework for collaborating across dozens of medical disciplines.
"This agreement is exciting not only for Medtronic and LVHN, but also for the health care industry, by serving as a template for how we can work together to achieve our mutual goals of better clinical and economic outcomes," CEO Omar Ishrak said in a news release.