Coalition of Leading Health Care Organizations Receive National Grant to Expand Choosing Wisely Program to Eliminate Wasteful and Potentially Harmful Care

June 18, 2015
A coalition of leading health care organizations in the state today announced that it received a 34-month grant from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation to expand work on Choosing Wisely®, a national initiative that encourages clinicians and patients to discuss which medical tests and procedures may be unnecessary for their condition, and in some instances, can cause harm. The Washington Health Alliance (Alliance) and the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA), both previous recipients of Choosing Wisely grants, will continue to partner on efforts to reduce wasteful – and potentially harmful – care. Joining them on the new grant will be Group Health Cooperative and Swedish, both of which will undertake bold efforts to significantly reduce the overuse of antibiotics for acute upper respiratory viral infections, imaging for uncomplicated headaches, and overly frequent Pap tests for women.

The grant will build on the work of the Washington State Choosing Wisely Task Force, which is co-sponsored by the Alliance, WSMA and the Washington State Hospital Association and consists of physician leaders from 22 of the largest health care organizations in the state. The Task Force had previously issued the nation’s first statewide report measuring select Choosing Wisely recommendations, based upon specifications developed by the Task Force and drawing upon the Alliance’s claims database of 3.9 million people in Washington State.

Under the grant, Group Health Cooperative and Swedish Health Services will undertake multiple system changes to reduce overuse in three areas: antibiotics for upper respiratory viral infections, imaging for uncomplicated headaches and overly frequent Pap tests for women. The overall effort, called the Change Three Things initiative, will require the two health systems to rely upon clinical data to establish a baseline and monitor progress and to offer providers the tools and support necessary to implement changes in their practices.

“We are excited to partner with Group Health, WHA and WSMA to further improve the health and well-being of the patients we serve,” said Dr. Christopher Dale, Medical Director of Quality and Value at Swedish Medical Group. “We will work with our caregivers and patients to help patients make the best decisions possible for their health. For example, this may involve working to decrease the use of antibiotics in conditions where they might not be appropriate, like in patients with a cold or the flu.”

The goal of the grant is to demonstrate success within Group Health Cooperative and Swedish and then spread their learnings to other medical systems around the state. The WSMA will work closely with the other grant partners to develop and deliver clinical education both within the selected health systems, as well as more broadly across the state. To support the work being done by clinicians, the Alliance will engage consumers, purchasers and payers to encourage their alignment with the Change Three Things initiative. The Alliance will also continue to support public statewide reporting of Choosing Wisely measures using its claims database.

The Choosing Wisely grant program, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, brings together health care organizations from across the country that have built strong multi-stakeholder alliances to focus on implementation of at least three Choosing Wisely recommendations. Since the campaign was launched in 2012, more than 100 national, regional and state medical specialty societies, health collaboratives and consumer groups have released more than 70 lists of tests or procedures they say are overused or inappropriate in their specialty, and that clinicians and patients should discuss.