Independent Evaluation: North Country Patients Have Benefited From DSRIP Program

University at Albany evaluates North Country Initiative-led efforts, finds positive results

WATERTOWN – A recent independent evaluation of statewide health care reform validates work being done locally by the North Country Initiative.

The survey, conducted by the University at Albany’s Center for Human Services Research, assessed the performance of the North Country Initiative in the first three years of New York’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program. Overall, responses to the survey were “more positive than those found statewide” and researchers determined that the North Country Initiative is “making progress toward meeting its goals and transforming health care.”

Launched in April 2015, the DSRIP program will distribute more than $6.4 billion to 25 Performing Provider Systems (PPS) throughout the state based on each group’s ability to meet key milestones by 2020. The overarching goal of the program is to reduce avoidable hospital visits by 25 percent, utilizing preventive health methods and increasing access to integrated primary and behavioral health care services in the outpatient setting.

The North Country Initiative PPS consists of six area hospitals and more than 500 providers including private practices, clinics, behavioral health providers, emergency medical services, community-based organizations and other agencies throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

“This independent evaluation gives weight to the hard work of all our DSRIP partners,” said Lindsay Z. Knowlton, deputy director of North Country Initiative. “Our region has pulled together as a team to face the challenges of health care reform, and we should be proud of what we have accomplished thus far.”

To form the evaluation, researchers conducted focus groups and electronic surveys of DSRIP-engaged partners and held key informant interviews with PPS leadership. They also used patient satisfaction surveys made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Notably, 100% of DSRIP-engaged partners surveyed said they believed patients are experiencing better care since the launch of DSRIP. Reponses indicated that the top DSRIP benefits to the region included: improved communication/care coordination (63%), improved understanding of patient needs (50%), and increased primary care provider use of behavioral health services (31%).

One survey respondent said: “DSRIP has helped our organization provide more consolidated care management services. This effort has helped patients and providers to both understand that we are a team working towards our patients’ health.”

Another respondent noted: “Behavioral health was one of the longest waits for referrals to our patients…This program has allowed us to coordinate a counselor who is in our office available to our patients. It has been incredibly helpful to both our patients and our staff. It never would have happened without the help of the [North Country Initiative].”

Other highlights from the report include:

  • 78% of local respondents perceived the program to be at least moderately effective, compared to the statewide results of 74%
  • 83% of local respondents indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with implementation and operation of up to three DSRIP projects, compared to the statewide result of 67%
  • 78% of local respondents reported that DSRIP has changed the way their organization provides services, compared to the statewide result of 67%

“Our region is leading the state in health care reform because our providers and DSRIP partners have a great history of working together and putting the needs of the patient first,” said Erika F. Flint, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization. “With much work still ahead of us, I have no doubt that the North Country will continue to succeed in strengthening our system for health.”

Since this report only covers DSRIP Years 0-3, additional research will be conducted by the University at Albany in 2019 and 2020 to evaluate DSRIP Years 4 and 5, respectively.

A full copy of the Independent Evaluation report can be found at https://bit.ly/2SKczzE.

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About the North Country Initiative

The North Country Initiative (NCI) is a partnership of hospitals, independent physicians and community providers working together to reform the health care system across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Together, these partners carry out strategies to coordinate leadership, align incentives, create clinical programs and develop technical infrastructure. The outcome of these changes will improve the health of the community, reduce the cost of health care, and improve care for patients. For more information about NCI, visit www.northcountryinitiative.org.


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