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Better Care at a Lower Cost, by Mark McClellan

Better care at a lower cost. 

That’s been health policy expert, Mark McClellan’s mantra for years. Finding ways to get payment and regulatory policies to support better care and a lower cost is what McClellan does.

“That’s very much part of the current expansion of efforts to move to payment models that are based more on results and value,” he says.

McClellan discussed the transition toward value-based health care delivery in his keynote speech “The State of Health Policy” in Austin at HealthCare Texas 2016, an annual conference bringing together more than 300 leading innovators in healthcare information technology, life sciences, and therapeutics.

“A lot of these payment reforms are about giving health care providers more flexibility in doing what they think is working with their patients and is best for their patients’ outcomes, but at the same time, since resources aren’t unlimited, having more accountability for results,” McClellan says.

In December of 2015, McClellan, who served as head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 2002 to 2004, joined the faculty at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin to advance the school’s mission of redesigning health care around value.

McClellan says that while his primary basis with UT is its new health policy center, he’s working with Dell Medical School on an ongoing basis as they take steps to implement new health care trends and ideas into the curriculum.

“One advantage of being a new medical school is that you don’t have to do things the old fashioned way,” McClellan says. “The leadership of the medical school has undertaken a tremendous effort to ask fundamental questions like ‘What kind of education do physicians need to practice in a future medical system that is hopefully going to be much more about better care at a lower cost?’”

Dr. Clay Johnston, inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School, said McClellan’s work will support efforts to revolutionize the way people get healthy and stay healthy.

“Mark has been a national leader in conceptualizing how to build a better health care system, and now he can really accelerate the pace in putting that system in place,” Dr. Clay Johnston said of McClellan after he was hired at UT.

Another one of McClellan’s objectives has been to help provide better information on the quality of care. McClellan says in recent years there has been much support for more transparency regarding prices and quality health care.

“I think there’s a lot promising work going on, including by some early stage companies, to help turn all of this health care data into information that’s really useful for patients and physicians and other health care providers that are guiding their decisions,” McClellan says.

McClellan notes that it’s very difficult to take raw information from claims data and convert it into a confident, accurate measure of the total cost of care that a patient faces.

“It’s not just a matter of what shows up on an insurance claim but things like: ‘Did a patient have a better functional outcome after surgery? What was the outcome of cancer treatment for a patient with an advanced cancer?’”

McClellan says the good news is we’re making progress.

“It’s an area where there’s been a lot of recent investment by health information companies providing patient-oriented and actionable analytic information on quality and cost of care,” he says. “I hope we continue to make further progress there.”

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