The Michigan Value Collaborative

Helping Michigan hospitals achieve their best possible patient outcomes at the lowest reasonable cost

Category: Current events (page 1 of 13)

Using Community Health Workers (CHWs) to Address Complex Needs Patients

Shiyuan Yin

Shiyuan is the MVC Research Associate.

Community Health Workers (CHWs) have been identified as a way to potentially expand healthcare access and reduce overall costs of care for complex patients. The effectiveness of CHWs stems from their knowledge and experiences in addressing social determinants of health as well as their unique position as a liaison between healthcare providers and patients. Challenges in integrating CHWs into the care continuum have limited their full potential to improve patient outcomes.

The Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) recently reviewed how CHWs have been integrated into value-based health systems nationally through the State Innovation Model (SIM) grants.  CHRT also examined how states utilized their grant to address challenges in both workforce development and integration demonstrations [1].  As part of its research, CHRT also documented how each SIM awardee addressed sustainable funding for CHW integration after the grant expires.

Among states receiving SIM test awards interviewed by CHRT, the state of Michigan develops the CHW workforce by expanding its core competency-based training program.  Michigan also uses grant funds to recruit and train new instructors while offering the program at community colleges throughout the state. In Michigan, the focus is to integrate CHWs into Patient-Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs) to help address emergency department utilization and improve overall social determinants of health.  Monthly payments to PCMHs provide seed funding for CHWs.

As an example of states using SIM dollars to integrate CHWs into the care continuum, CHRT cited Vermont’s employment of CHWs as part of a nurse-led community health team.  The purpose of the team is to provide outreach to individuals and bridge relationships among primary care offices and social service groups.  Given the complexities surrounding patient referrals to social services and lack of information exchange with the primary care office as to whether services were received, the state viewed CHWs as an opportunity to bridge these gaps.  Even after the SIM grant ended, the community health teams continue.

While the value of CHWs has been recognized, CHRT determined sustainable funding for these types of support remains uncertain. Moreover, the lack of a standard understanding of the roles of CHWs hinders the effectiveness of their activities and creates confusion. This report provides a great introduction to the core roles, skills, and ideal qualities of CHWs in the U.S [2].

If you are interested in learning how other states use CHWs to address patients’ social and personal needs and allow primary care providers to focus on clinical needs, you may want to refer to this toolkit designed by the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Interested in reading more? Please check out the following sources:

  1. Lapedis, Kieffer, and Udow-Phillips, “Revisioning the Care Delivery Team: The Role of CHWs within State Innovation Models.” Retrieved from:
  2. Rosenthal, Rush, and Allen, “Understanding Scope and Competencies: A Contemporary Look at the United States Community Health Worker Field.” Retrieved from:

Going National with The Michigan Model of Collaborative Quality Initiatives

Scott Regenbogen

Dr. Regenbogen is the MVC Co-Director

Over the last 10-plus years, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) Value Partnerships have grown to include, among other programs, 17 Collaborative Quality Initiatives (CQI). The clinical focus of the CQIs ranges from cardiology to spine surgery to radiation and many others. This “Michigan Model” of collaboration, pay-for-participation, and statewide, population-based quality improvement has yielded wide-ranging improvements, as reported several years ago.

Still, the regional collaboratives model has not spread widely beyond Michigan. Last month, at the inaugural summit of the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Quality Improvement, discussion focused on the challenges of securing financial support for regional collaboratives. Several other states—including Tennessee, South Carolina, Illinois, and Pennsylvania—have multi-hospital improvement initiatives around surgical care, but on a smaller scale than in Michigan. Like Michigan’s, all of these CQIs are supported by a regional Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer. In a commentary in this week’s JAMA Surgery, the leaders of the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative argue that an all-payer strategy, including investment from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is needed in order to replicate the Michigan approach to care improvement.

To date, BCBSM has been the sole third-party funding source for the CQIs. Yet, the efforts of each collaborative have been payer-naïve—the benefits accrue to all patients regardless of their insurance coverage. In the Michigan Value Collaborative, we analyze payment data for individuals insured by both BSBSM and Medicare, and will soon expand to include Medicaid beneficiaries as well. And even in states like Michigan, where BCBSM handles quite a large portion of the commercial insurance market, CMS still remains the truly dominant payer, once we consider Medicare and Medicaid in all of their various forms.

This week’s JAMA Surgery Viewpoint considers how CMS could partner with private payers in support of regional collaboratives. Such a partnership could allow Michigan to become a model for the rest of the country. Under the new requirements for MACRA, physicians may satisfy reporting requirements through Qualified Clinical Data Registries. But what if active participation in a proactive CQI became a central part of all medical care in this country, and was supported by CMS? If this degree of dissemination could be achieved, CMS could catalyze innovative care delivery improvement on a far greater scale.

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