By Irene S. Snow and Michael W. Cropp

The idea of health plans and physicians working in partnership was once about as likely as the Hatfields and McCoys getting together for the holidays. A fundamental change in thinking – driven in part by the Affordable Care Act – is starting to change the dynamic of how payers and providers work together to reduce costs, improve processes and enhance patient care.

At Buffalo Medical Group and Independent Health, we believe transforming health care is a collective responsibility. As such, we are committed to identifying and implementing sustainable solutions to improve the quality and effectiveness of health care through a long-standing relationship built on trust and transparency.

Collaboration between our organizations was featured at the annual American Health Care Congress, a gathering of leaders held recently in Anaheim, Calif. The conference focused on innovative strategies and payer-provider models for improving health care.

Working together to improve and reward the delivery of quality care makes a positive impact on patient health. This optimization of care helps lower the medical cost trend. Two patient-centered projects under way at BMG are achieving significant results.

The Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) initiative uses electronic medical records to identify and, if necessary, treat patients at risk for this condition. Left untreated, AAA may cause debilitating health conditions and even death.

Diabetes affects thousands of Western New Yorkers and results in millions of dollars in preventable health complications. To counter this, BMG is working to ensure diabetic patients have risk factors – such as cholesterol and blood-glucose levels – on target. The results speak for themselves. BMG’s diabetic patients exceed the 90 percent National Committee for Quality Assurance target for control of risk factors.

Through its pay-for-performance program and payment reform efforts, Independent Health rewards this type of preventive care because such initiatives improve quality and help avoid more costly care in the future.

BMG is among the pioneering groups of physicians throughout the community who are part of the Primary Connection, an alliance of primary care physicians who have teamed up with Independent Health to launch a new approach to health care delivery. Utilizing an innovative reimbursement model, the Primary Connection is helping to significantly change the way care is delivered.

We must continue down this path of collaboration and remain a model for the rest of the nation to follow.

Irene S. Snow, M.D., is medical director of Buffalo Medical Group and a specialist in internal medicine. Michael W. Cropp, M.D., is president and CEO of Independent Health and a board-certified family physician.