/ Modified sep 17, 2016 7:15 a.m.

Lower Costs, Improved Health Care See Progress in Tucson

Plus: update from Caterpillar; what's next for ITT Tech students; teens in government.

Tucson Medical Center, doctors in the region and health care clinics worked together to improve the quality of health care and reduce costs by 8.3 percent in 2015.

The group is part of Arizona Connected Care, one of several so-called accountable care organizations in the country that are trying to change, or at least stem, the trajectory of rising health costs.

They work together by sharing electronic records to avoid repeat tests or keep track of what other doctors have done for a patient, said Daniel McCabe, the CEO of Arizona Connected Care.

All of the work has led to a savings of 8.3 percent of the projected budget, he said. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services share the savings with the accountable care organization.

The savings are put back into the local health care system, he said.

"That's used to reinvest in our practices so that they can become more efficient and more effective," he said.

That's where electronic records come in.

"The practices have care coordinators so that when a patient is admitted to the hospital, they can follow them immediately upon discharge," he said. Essentially, a patient's primary care doctor can know what happens when a patient goes somewhere else, such as the emergency room, and can adapt their own treatment to the updated information.

Likewise, it helps Tucson Medical Center, said Rhonda Bodfield, the hospital’s government and public relations project manager.

"As a hospital, we share the same patients," she said. "What we want is to be able to communicate more efficiently and make sure that there aren't any gaps in care."

Also in this episode of Metro Week:

  • ITT Technical Institute is closed throughout the country as of this week. We check in on the other for-profit colleges that have closed in Tucson, and AZPM's Vanessa Barchfield explains the options students have for furthering their education or using their financial aid.

  • Caterpillar, Inc. is expanding its operations to Tucson. Vice President Tom Bluth is in charge of the surface mining and technology division, and explained in a speech this week why that division is coming together from locations all over the world, and what went into the decision to do so Tucson.

  • Gov. Doug Ducey has a youth commission that works on numerous social issues and includes high school students from each of the 15 counties. We speak with Meena Venkataramanan and Susan Hong, the Pima County representatives, about their work to combat substance abuse and bullying in Arizona.

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