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Healthcare Industry Agents of Change Promote Responsible Spending


1 Caring Wisely Program

  • Started in 2012 within the division of hospital medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the program sponsored or collaborated on six high-value care projects within its first year. “We don’t shy away from the fact that part of what we do is address cost, but it is about making sure that we’ve got the right mindset and right frame, which is that we’re going to improve quality while decreasing costs and keeping it really patient centered,” says Christopher Moriates, MD, program director and an assistant clinical professor.
  • Beyond its successful Nebs No More After 24 project, Caring Wisely helped hospital pharmacists and the UCSF Medication Outcomes Center develop and implement an evidence-based initiative to cut inappropriate stress ulcer prophylaxis in intensive care unit patients. After its first month, the program had cut unnecessary use of the medication from 19% to 6.6%.

2 Choosing Wisely Program

  • Launched in 2012 as an initiative of the ABIM Foundation and based on a pilot project by the National Physicians Alliance, Choosing Wisely was designed to encourage more proactive conversations between providers and patients. The goal is to help patients choose care that is both evidence-based and necessary, while minimizing harm and avoiding duplication of tests or procedures.
  • Since its debut, the program has gathered nearly 60 specialty society lists of “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question,” including two lists compiled by SHM for adult and pediatric hospital medicine. As a complement, Consumer Reports and many of the specialty societies have collaborated on 75 patient-friendly reports that dispense advice about whether a test, treatment, or procedure is really needed.

3 Costs of Care

  • Founded in 2009 by Neel Shah, MD, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, the nonprofit got its start by collecting stories from patients and physicians about unnecessary or inflated healthcare costs. “It had a manifesto about what the role of physicians ought to be and thinking about healthcare costs, and that message actually really resonated with a lot of people,” Dr. Shah says. “That basic message that we decide what goes on the bill, patients have to pay for it, and yet we don’t know what it’s costing them—that just seemed crazy and we heard from a lot of people, both from patients with whom that message resonated and physicians who were like, ‘Yeah.’”
  • In 2010, the organizers hosted their first essay contest and ended up receiving more than 300 entries; several were subsequently included as case reports in a report on healthcare waste by the Institute of Medicine. The nonprofit, supported by the ABIM Foundation and other institutions, has since led to an educational venture called the Teaching Value Project, a textbook titled Understanding Value-Based Care (McGraw-Hill), and a “Costs of Care” iPhone app—all designed to help clinicians make high-value clinical decisions and increase price transparency.

4 The Do No Harm Project


  • Launched in 2012 at the University of Colorado by Brandon Combs, MD, and Tanner Caverly, MD, MPH, the project is aimed at medical trainees. Starting with the internal medicine program, the physicians asked medical residents to reflect on a patient who had suffered an adverse consequence from medical overuse. “This was reasonable care that was nevertheless unneeded or unwanted by a fully informed patient,” Dr. Combs says. “So this isn’t errors or malpractice; this is the stuff that flies under the radar, the stuff that people might miss.”
  • The project uses clinical vignettes written by medical trainees (including those found in the “Teachable Moments” section of JAMA Internal Medicine) to improve the recognition of potential harm from overuse and to spur a culture change. In 2013, the Teaching Value and Choosing Wisely Competition, jointly sponsored by Costs of Care and the ABIM Foundation, recognized the project as one of its Innovations award winners; so far, five internal medicine and emergency medicine programs around the country have adopted the model.


  • The Interactive Cost-Awareness Resident Exercise (I-CARE) was launched in 2011 by Yale hospitalist Robert Fogerty, MD, MPH, and colleagues. The friendly competition among medical students, interns, residents, and attending physicians uses a traditional morning report structure and charge data. At these conferences, the providers compete to come up with the correct diagnosis using the fewest resources possible. In 2013, the Teaching Value and Choosing Wisely competition, jointly sponsored by Costs of Care and the ABIM Foundation, recognized I-CARE as one of its Innovations award winners.
  • “Physicians tend not to have a lot of business training,” Dr. Fogerty says. “They don’t have a lot of financial training. They don’t have a lot of economics background, and when you tell them that healthcare expense is 18% of GDP [gross domestic product], they don’t really know what that means. When you tell them that that would be in the top 10 of world economies, now they’re starting to get a picture of it. And when you tell them that that CAT scan you just ordered is going to cost your patient $1,200, that’s an eye-opening number that they can understand. So I think the purpose behind I-CARE was to take this seemingly insurmountable problem and to begin to digest it into small enough bits of information that allowed this problem to be accessible to the trainees.”

6 Providers for Responsible Ordering (PRO)

  • The organization launched in 2009 with a mission to “promote high-value care and create a culture that minimizes unnecessary or potentially-harmful diagnostic tests and interventions.” By the end of 2014, five chapters had been established and more than 150 providers had signed the PRO pledge that asks signatories, in part, “to provide my patients with all of the care that they need and none that they do not, thereby protecting them from unnecessary diagnostic tests and treatments.”
  • “Our model is simple and yet powerful. It’s a grass-roots effort that any interested provider can join, and it builds on a peer-to-peer approach of establishment of chapters that solve local problems and reporting of those solutions back to the national group,” says Anthony Accurso, MD, PRO faculty director at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore.

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