HLTH: How Mass General Brigham plans to navigate evolving care delivery options, rising prices

Boston skyline including Massachusetts General Hospital (Photo: DenisTangneyJr, Getty Images)

Virtual and digital care accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, but this does not mean health systems should abandon investment in brick-and-mortar locations.

That’s according to Dr. Anne Klibanski, president and CEO of Boston-based Mass General Brigham. Klibanski spoke at a panel at the HLTH conference on Tuesday, where she discussed emerging trends in healthcare, like telehealth and price transparency, and how her academic health system is responding. The session was moderated by MedCity News Editor-in-Chief Arundhati Parmar.

Though virtual care and hospital-at-home programs took off during the pandemic, Mass General Brigham is not losing sight of advancing the in-person care it provides. The system, whose founding members are Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is aiming to break ground next year on a $1.9 billion expansion project that includes the construction of two new patient towers.

“How do we build that building of the future for those patients who need to be there?” Klibanski said. “There will always need to be a place for [providing] those highest-level types of care in an academic [medical center] setting.”

Along with investing in the traditional care setting, Mass General plans to continue developing secondary care locations for patients who don’t need to be brought into an academic medical center, which includes virtual, home-based and ambulatory care. This will also enable the health system, with its specialists and sub-specialists, to push its expertise out of the four walls of its main hospitals.

Another fundamental part of Mass General Brigham’s strategy moving forward will be a focus on price transparency. The health system is one of the few in the country that is complying with federal price transparency regulations. But this has brought to light some figures that may shock patients: an MRI can cost anywhere between $1,000 and nearly $4,000 depending on the health plan.

So how is the health system planning to combat the rise in healthcare prices while offering such high-cost services?

First, it is important to understand that these figures only show the tip of a large spectrum of pricing across the system, Klibanski said. This is what it costs to do an MRI at a high-quality tertiary/quaternary care hospital due to the technology and high level of expertise available.

“[But] we don’t need to have patients have their MRIs in our system at Mass General [Hospital] all the time…or at any of these specialty hospitals,” she said.

Mass General Brigham is running enterprise-wide services, which means, if you are a patient and you live near Salem, Massachusetts, you do not need to go to Massachusetts General Hospital or Brigham and Women’s Hospital for an MRI and instead you can go to a local hospital or ambulatory setting where the service is not as expensive.

But this does not mean that patients who need added expertise won’t have access to it. If a patient has a rare disease or another type of complex condition, their images will be routed to one of the larger academic medical centers.

“How do we…deliver that kind of highest-level care, informed by research, but lower the cost of care at the same time? The answer is we do enterprise services,” Klibanski said. “We continue to push out routine care into the community, into the home, into these lower-cost settings.”

The goal is to improve the overall value of the care being provided, she added.

Photo: DenisTangneyJr, Getty Images





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