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Act Now To Build on Your Culture of Caring

This year at our annual conference we learned that employees who feel cared about are more engaged and productive. As you continue to build your culture of caring, connecting employees with resources to meet their social needs, such as WIC, as well as community needs, such as Vitalant (formerly LifeBlood) is critical, especially during COVID-19. 

WIC Could Be Right for Your Employees

The economic consequences of restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have, undoubtedly, touched many of your employees. Even if they continue to work, their family income may have been negatively impacted resulting in social needs they have not had before. In Tennessee we know that COVID-19 has created an urgent need to connect pregnant and post-partum women, nursing mothers, and at-risk children until their 5th birtday to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). A statewide campaign to increase awareness and enrollment has just started and MBGH has joined the effort! Eligibility for WIC is based upon proof of family size, children’s ages, proof of pregnancy (if applicable), and income. For example, income eligibility for a family of four is $48,470. This program may be especially applicable to part-time employees who have limited other family income.  Employees can learn more and complete a pre-screening tool to see if they are eligible at Healthy nutrition feeds the body, cognitive development, and soul and helps prevent obesity and other chronic conditions! Help your employees and their families in need get connected so they can thrive!

The Silent COVID-19 Crisis: Our Blood Supply

Did you know that every unit of blood saves 3 lives? Historically, in normal years, Memphians donated  50,000+ units of blood annually.  Today, Vitalant (formerly LifeBlood) collects a little more than 20,000 units a year.  That's 10,000 fewer lives saved by Memphis donors! As a result, Vitalant imports more than 50% of the blood we need (which cost more and is only available if other communities don't need it) from other Vitalant regions in MS, LA, TX, AZ and NM. Capacity restrictions; fewer mobile blood drives (did you know mobile drives  account for 60% of collections?) because many employees are working from home and students are virtual vs. on campus (did you know 30% of collections come from high school and college students?); as well as concern over contracting COVID-19 in medical settings, have only exacerbated an already fragile blood supply in Memphis. Even in COVID-19 you can sponsor a much needed blood drive: either at one of 5 collection centers or even at the worksite. Vitalant can work with you to design and implement a safe worksite blood drive or if you decide to use their locations, can track employee participation and provide you with the results per drive, per quarter, and/or per year.  People can donate blood every 56 days, so employers can even schedule drives 4-6 times a year (which is turnkey when using the Vitalant locations)! Always remember that you may be saving the lives of your employees and/or their families by working with Vitalant to increase collections. Contact David Williams at to explore partnerships and Lawren Bogard at for scheduling a blood drive.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, October 19, 2020

Is It Safe to Go to The Doctor in COVID-19?

Guest blog post from Clint Cummins, CEO, and Danielle Hassel, MD, President, Memphis Medical Society

The pandemic has clearly had a dramatic effect on all of us, particularly in the healthcare system, whether you are provider, patient, payer, caregiver, or all of the above. One of the more noticeable effects has been the decrease in the public seeking care for non-COVID-19 illnesses or follow up care for chronic issues.

A recent survey conducted by our partners at Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) reveals that more than half of all doctor’s offices had a 50% or more decrease in office visits and 88% faced decreases in office visits of more than twenty-five percent. Many of the survey respondents were in private practice. These situations are leading many practices to assess their long-term viability. That is not good for the health of our city and state.

So, let’s answer the question: Simply stated, YES, it is safe to go to a doctor’s office! A few precautions should be taken, but they are no more inconvenient than wearing a mask or practicing social distancing.

  1. Call First – there is a possibility your symptoms or condition can be treated via telehealth/virtual care (e.g. telephone or video conference). Your doctor’s office will ask questions to determine whether that is possible.
  2. Know Your Clinic’s Guidelines – some clinics may be located in office buildings with shared tenants or other unique circumstances. Many offer the ability to wait in your car until they are ready to bring you into an exam room. Others offer temperature checks at the entrance to the building. Most clinics will make this information available to you via phone, email or their website. Don’t hesitant to ask. Not all clinics are created equal, so do not hesitate to ask what you need to do in order to ensure the safest appointment possible.
  3. Protect Yourself – wear a mask or face covering to the in-person appointment if available. If you do not have access to a mask, then let the clinic staff know before you walk in. The clinic should be able to provide one for you. Wash hands and use hand sanitizer when given the opportunity. Clinics will use proper screening and safety guidelines to ensure you do not come in contact with patients known by the clinic to be positive for COVID-19.
  4. Protect Others – use your mask to protect others.  Limit the number of individuals who travel with you to your appointment, as they may not all be allowed inside with you.
  5. Know What to Expect for Your Safety
    1. Clinics are keeping suspected contagious cases, especially any threats of COVID-19, completely separated. This may occur through protocols such as seeing only well patients in the morning and sick patients in the afternoon. Then, staff will disinfect the clinic before opening the following day.
    2. The already-stringent cleanliness protocols of practices have only been stiffened during the pandemic. Practices should be disinfecting rooms and equipment thoroughly between patient visits and disposing of biological waste that would be at risk for contamination.
    3. This is reciprocated in the health of and safety of the clinic staff. Clinics do not want to put patients or staff at risk, therefore strict guidelines should be given to staff who should not appear at work if they have fever or suspicious symptoms.  Many clinics go as far as to test employee temperatures daily or enforce regularly scheduled COVID-19 testing of staff.

Most importantly, do not put off necessary care, whether it is in person or via telehealth! If you’re managing a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure for example, then you should continue to seek care.  If you have a physical injury, you should contact a physician without hesitation.

Our primary concern is the health and safety of our patients and our community – that’s you!

If you need a physician or have questions, go to to find what you need.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Friday, June 26, 2020

Do You Have a Comprehensive Obesity Benefit Design?

According to the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and The Obesity Society, obesity management requires a "stepwise approach" (see chart above).

Benefit design and coverage should align with clinical management to ensure that employees have access to the appropriate clinical services to maximize their opportunity to manage their obesity and be as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

In our historical work with MBGH employers as well as our 2020 focus on obesity and diabetes, we have learned that Memphis-area employers promote cultures of health and wellbeing that support diet, physical activity and behavior therapy. Extensive programs are generally available to support employees in starting and maintaining lifestyle changes. As you see above, these benefits and programs are critical for all levels of body mass index, even when paired with pharmacotherapy and surgery.

We have also found that Memphis-area employers generally cover weight management surgery, subject to significant pre-authorization requirements in order to maximize positive outcomes and lasting impact.

The gap for many Memphis-area employers is offering pharmacotherapy as a covered benefit. As the chart indicates, this management tool is best suited for those wtih a BMI starting a 27 if there are comorbidities and 30 if there are no comorbidities. Also note that pharmacotherapy can be continued for those that undergo surgery.

Results from a randomized trial of lifestyle modifications and pharmacotherapy treatment published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005, found that patients with both experienced approximately 2 times the weight loss of those with lifestyle modification alone.

A 2016 study published in Obesity Science and Practice (from the World Obesity and The Obesity Society) indicated that only 1% of the potential 1.8 million potentially eligible patients were receiving pharmacotherapy.

Average weight loss on anti-obesity medications ranges from 3-9%. Weight loss of 5-10% can result in reductions in type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, and blood lipid profile.

Unsure if you you cover pharmacotherapy for your employees with obesity? Here are some steps you can take:

  • Review your summary plan description and specifically the "exclusions" sections to see if you currently cover or exclude anti-obesity medications
  • Examine your PBM contract, including provisions related to the plan design document and/or benefit specification forms. See if you have selected to cover or not cover therapeutic categories that include anti-obesity medications.
  • Check out your pre-authorization requirements and, if you cover or decide to cover anti-obesity medications, check the box that to include appropriate prior authorizaions, which will reduce the likelihood that patients that do not clilnically qualify will receive the medications.

MBGH employer members and members of our Health Benefits Peer Roundtable and Health & WellBeing Peer Roundtable are taking a deep dive into benefit design issues related to obesity. We will be exploring why some employers are not covering pharmacotherapy, how to work with your health plans and PBMs to implement coverage, and employee communications. Contact Cristie Travis at for more information on our 2020 focus!

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, May 21, 2020

How will COVID-19 impact your health benefit plan costs?

As we move from crisis control to considering how we operate with coronavirus for the foreseeable future, employers are addressing the economic impact on health benefit plans. Here are some steps you can take:

Understand actuarial projections related to COVID-19 for your specific health plan. Here are some top line findings from Milliman (click here for 2020 report and here for 2021 report):

  • If COVID-19 results in delayed care through June 2020, the net reduction in healthcare costs will be $140-$375 billion nationally. If care is delayed through year end, the net reduction could be $75-$575 billion nationally.
  • 2021 projections differ based on whether or not another wave of the virus results in continued social distancing and deferral of care, if yes, then experience may be similar to 2020 with additional COVID-19 costs being offset by deferred or forgone care. However, if providers demand price increases to make-up for lost revenue in 2020 ,f there is a rush for services due to pent-up demand, and continuation of high COVID-19 treatment costs, 2021 could see significant cost increases.

Remember that if employees have already met their deductible in 2020 they may seek to get delayed care this year, minimizing their out-of-pocket expenses.

Use a dashboard to track trends for complications and downstream costs due to forgone care for those with chronic disease and delayed preventive care, including cancer screening. Include benefits and reminders that can rapidly get them into the care they need. MBGH is using a diabetes dashboard with members this year. Members can email Cristie Travis for a copy.

Remind employees of critical chronic care management and preventive services they need to pay attention to when doctors offices open back up. Refer them to their benefit plan and wellbeing programs for recommendations and coverage.

Consider adding or reinforce existing benefits to support employees in getting the most appropriate treatment for conditions such as hip/knee surgery, lower back surgery, hysterectomy, weight loss surgery. Consider a second opinion benefit if you don't already have one. Delayed elective treatments may have exacerbated physical problems and employees may be seeking immediate care that, at times, may not be the best option. 

Click here to check out the National Alliance's webinar recording and slide deck for the Employer Town Hall on COVID-19: Financial Impact of COVID-19

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, May 21, 2020

Employees With Diabetes & Obesity Are At Higher Risk for Severe Illness

It is clear that your employees with diabetes and obesity are at higher risk for severe illness if they contract COVID-19. Almost 50% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have obesity and almost 30% have diabetes. In addition, those with obesity and diabetes are at higher risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease which are also top underlying conditions associated with hospitalization.    

You can support your employees and improve the effectiveness of your health benefits by taking the following actions:

Share the CDC recommendations for actions those at risk can take to help lessen the severity of illness with your employees: See the full-list here. Highlights include: reduce trips to pharmacy by keeping an extra supply of medications at home; be sure influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations are up to date; for those with diabetes, monitor your blood sugar regularly, take your temperature daily, and monitor weight since weight loss may be a sign of high blood sugar; those with severe obesity (BMI 40+) should continue to take medication for underlying conditions (such as hypertension) as prescribed.

Remind your employees of their benefits such as personal health coaching, diabetes disease management programs, advocacy and navigation support, telehealth, and nurse advice lines. Both the CDC and American Diabetes Association stress that effectively managing diabetes reduces the likelihood of severe illness.

Consider first dollar coverage for diabetes (and other chronic conditions) medications, tests, and screenings now IRS-approved for high deductible health plans. Removing the financial barriers to needed care, which can be steep in a high deductible health plan, can help your employees better manage their diabetes. See the IRS expanded list here.

Participate in MBGH's 2020 focus on obesity and diabetes! MBGH employer members and members of our Health Benefits Peer Roundtable and Health & WellBeing Peer Roundtable are eligible to participate. Special projects include working with NCQA on using data to drive strategies; implementing a comprehensive obesity benefit; identifying and filling gaps in benefits and wellbeing programs for those with diabetes; and more. Contact Cristie at for more information.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, April 16, 2020

Your Employees Still Have Other Health Needs

Let's not forget that as much as life seems so different right now, employees still have health needs in addition to those associated with COVID-19. In addition, this global pandemic itself impacts other aspects of your employee's health. Remind your employees of key benefits that will help them navigate through these tough times, such as:

Telehealth: Using telehealth for non-emergent health needs, when appropriate, can keep your employees and their families out of ERs and physician offices where they may be exposed to coronavirus. Avoiding ERs unless it is a true emergency will also help protect that valuable resource for those that need it most, including your employees with strokes, heart attacks, injuries, COVID-19 and other emergent conditions.

EAP, tele-behavioral health, other advocacy/support benefits: The added stress and fear of coronavirus can exacerbate mental health and substance use conditions or, perhaps, even contribute to new ones.  18% of Americans already struggle with anxiety and 61% of employees indicate their mental health impacts their work. Click here to see the World Health Organization's mental health considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Click here for a timely article from Employee Benefit News.

Mail order prescriptions: Employees with chronic conditions are at higher risk if infected so must continue to manage their conditions and make healthy choices to stay as healthy as possible. The CDC calls for an "emergency supply" of prescription medications but doesn't specify if that is one or three months. Encourage your employees to talk with their doctor to see if they should increase their one-month supply to three months. Remind your employees of their mail order benefits. Using mail order will help increase social distancing and provided access to needed medications if they have to stay at home for an extended period of time.

Health and wellbeing programs: Physical activity and eating healthy foods have a direct impact on your employee's mental as well as physical health. Other programs that are especially effective for this time include mindfulness, sleep and whole person care. With more employees working remotely, reinforce the programs that are available online and even consider making additional online resources available. Don't forget to deploy strategies to keep your remote employees connected to each other and engaged, perhaps with friendly competitions. Click here to access the slides and additional resources from MBGH's 2019 Annual Conference "Putting It All Together: Physical + Mental Health" to get ideas.

Are there other benefits we should highlight? Email Cristie at and we will post them here!

Posted by Cristie Travis at Sunday, March 15, 2020

Check Out National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions Alliance Employer Coronavirus Resources

The National Alliance (NA) employer resource page is updated regulary to keep you abreast of the latest "real world" resources for employers. The National Alliance is focused on bringing us information that is not typically available through other sources, such as what employers are actually doing to prepare for and in response to the ever-changing environment you are operating in! Click here to get:

  • Recording of March 10 Employer Town Hall Call on Coronavirus with the National Alliance Medical Director Advisory Council
  • Toolkits & Guidebooks for employers from CDC, US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, WHO, DOL and more!

Coming Soon! MBGH Members and CEO Culture of Health, watch your email for a PULSE survey about actions you have taken and are considering taking in light of this dynamic environment! Since your submissions are confidential, you will need to let me know if you participate so I can share the results of this national survey with those that submit responses! Don't lose out on this important benchmarking information. We are committed to turning this around quickly so you won't have much time to respond. Please, just one response per organization :) The NA is keeping it short out of respect for your time!

Other Resources

Baker Donelson Webinar Recording: Coronavirus: What Your Business Should Do Right Now

Baker Donelson COVID-19 Website: Click Coronavirus Updates to Know the Latest Developments

US Chamber of Commerce Foundation: Resilience in a Box  Disaster Preparedness and Business Resilience

CDC: Coronavirus Resources for Business and Employers

Posted by Cristie Travis at Sunday, March 15, 2020

We're Postponing Our CEO Culture of Health Awards

Due to recommendations for social distancing to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, MBGH is postponing our annual awards presentation, originally scheduled for April 23. We are currently evaluating our options to identify the best way to recognize your commitment to creating and sustaining a culture of health!

This year we will be recognizing ALL of our CEO Culture of Health participants! It is time to celebrate and recommit to the pledge you made when you joined the initiative to promote and support the health of your employees as a business imperative. The coronavirus pandemic is only reinforcing the need for a healthy and productive workforce and our CEO Culture of Health participants are well positioned to be ahead of the game to weather this volatile time. We will let you know our plans once they are finalized so we can celebrate your accomplishments.

Once again, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Cigna are sponsoring our awards and we thank them for their continued support.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Saturday, March 14, 2020

MBGH Takes A Deep Dive Into Obesity & Diabetes

In response to MBGH member request, MBGH will be taking a deep dive into obesity and diabetes in 2020.

Our year-long work will provide you with actionable steps you can take to better manage the cost and quality of your benefits and wellbeing programs for those with obesity and/or diabetes. You will:

  • Better understand the benefit and wellbeing implications of obesity being a recognized disease
  • Compare your current benefit and wellbeing offerings to evidence-based and promising offerings that align with the clinical needs of those who are overweight and/or have diabetes 
  • Know whether your employees and their families are receiving evidence-based clinical care through a deep dive into (1) your own data and (2) your health plan's data and benchmarking your experience with others. We're pleased to announce that this data work will be co-led by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).
  • Understand how to build the learnings from our 2019 mental health focus into our approach to reduce stigma of obesity and diabetes as well as underlying behavioral health issues.

We will spend a portion of each Health Benefits Peer Roundtable and Health & WellBeing Peer Roundtable focused on obesity and diabetes. Our Annual Awards will have an interactive learning session on this topic and our Annual Conference will address it during several of the break-out sessions. We will augment these meetings with webinars as they arise and other resources.

You can start the Deep Dive today! Use these resources to better understand why obesity and diabetes are important to employers and an overview of key actions you can take:

Obesity: Confronting a Misunderstood and Undermanaged Workforce Disease from the National Alliance for an overview and actions you can take.

St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition Employer Strategies to Address Diabetes to see the list of benefits and programs St Louis employers are deploying. Use this as a checklist to compare your own offerings.

Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have specific areas you want to focus on or to learn more about this initiative.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 4, 2020

MBGH Selected To Lead Improvements in Mental Health & Substance Use in Tennessee

Memphis, TN – January 6, 2020 – The Memphis Business Group on Health (MBGH), in partnership with HealthCare 21 Business Coalition (HC21) serving middle and east Tennessee, has been selected to lead efforts in Tennessee to improve mental health and substance use care. This is part of a transformative initiative called The Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Use led by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, American Psychiatric Association (APA), American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF) Center for Workplace Mental Health and Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.

Launched last month, The Path Forward has embarked on a five-year plan to execute a disciplined, private sector approach to improve mental health and substance use care for Americans across the nation.

"Tennessee employers are keenly aware that the behavioral health treatment system in our state is not meeting the needs of their employees and families,” said Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO. “Leveraging the collective effort of employers across the state to simultaneously improve in-network access, strengthen effective treatment, and address parity, we can create sustained improvements and Tennesseans can get the care they need and deserve. MBGH is pleased to be selected to engage in this work and to partner with HC21 to achieve this change across the state".

MBGH and HC21 will lead one of eight Regional Employer Stakeholder Engagement Teams (RESET Regions) to leverage the influence of their employer and other health care purchaser members to work with health plans, medical and behavioral health groups, consultants and brokers to combat this public health crisis. To gain national traction, similar efforts are underway in California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Virginia.  Funding is being sought for this multi-year effort.

“The mental health and substance use system across the country is in crisis,” said Michael Thompson, National Alliance President and CEO. “The activities of the RESET Regions will be key to achieving and leveraging sustainable and measurable improvements to access, comprehensive care and parity. These employers are the primary financiers of the system and they will both set the tone and hold the stakeholders accountable for accomplishing these goals.”

A report published last month by Milliman found the current state of mental health and substance use treatment in America is dire and only getting worse. Results showed that patients were much more likely to resort to “out-of-network” providers for behavioral health treatment than for other conditions.

To overcome these issues, The Path Forward has identified Five Priority Strategies that constitute our nation’s best opportunity to transform behavioral healthcare at a population level and improve access to necessary early detection and appropriate treatment. These best practices include (1) improving access to “in-network” behavioral health specialists, (2) expanding use of the collaborative care model to integrate behavioral health into primary care, (3) implementing measurement-based care in both primary care and behavioral specialty care to improve quality and outcomes, (4) expanding tele-behavioral health, and (5) ensuring mental health parity compliance.

About Memphis Business Group on Health

Since 1985, MBGH has brought employers, with almost 400,000 covered lives in Tennessee, together to share solutions, make connections, and provide tools to manage the cost and quality of their health benefits. MBGH is the only nonprofit organization in the greater-Memphis area representing the employer’s voice - working to help employers manage the rising cost of health care, improve the quality of medical care, and empower employees and their families to choose healthier lifestyles. Learn more at

About American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association (APA), founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,500 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information visit

About American Psychiatric Association Foundation Center for Workplace Mental Health

The American Psychiatric Association Foundation, a subsidiary of the APA, works to create a mentally healthy nation by advancing mental health, overcoming mental illness and eliminating stigma. The Center for Workplace Mental Health helps employers create a more supportive workplace for their employees and advance mental health at their organizations For more information, visit

About Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute

Since its public launch in 2014, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) has helped Texas legislators, government officials, members of the judiciary, and local leaders identify systemic mental health needs and solutions, quickly becoming Texas’s most trusted source for data-driven mental health policy. MMHPI is helping Texas leaders address the mental health crisis in our jails and emergency rooms, improve access to care for veterans and their families, shift the focus of new investments toward early intervention, and expand the mental health workforce. Learn more about MMHPI at

About National Alliance

The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions is the only nonprofit, purchaser-led organization with a national and regional structure dedicated to driving health and healthcare value across the country. Our members represent more than 12,000 employers/purchasers and 45 million Americans spending over $300 billion annually on healthcare. To learn more, visit, connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

# # #

Media Contact:

Cristie Upshaw Travis


Telephone: 901-487-7299

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, January 6, 2020

MBGH CEO Elected Vice President of National Quality Forum Board of Directors

Memphis, TN – January 6, 2020 – The National Quality Forum (NQF) announced on January 3, 2020, Jonathan B. Perlin, MD, PhD, MSHA, President, Clinical Services and Chief Medical Officer of Hospital Corporation of America as the new chair of its Board of Directors and Memphis Business Group on Health Chief Executive Officer Cristie Upshaw Travis as Board vice chair.

“NQF has the unique ability to pull together the diverse voices necessary to provide the collective perspective to chart the path for improving the quality of care in our country,” said Dr. Perlin. “It is an honor to work with such a committed group of colleagues to advance a mission to improve healthcare outcomes for every person in every community.”

"I am honored to join my fellow Tennessean, Jon Perlin, in working with the National Quality Forum Board of Directors and strong NQF team to continue NQF's work to drive measurable health improvements through collaboration, leadership, passion, excellence and integrity".

Ms. Travis' has been involved with NQF for over 10 years and served as Treasurer of the Board of Directors; Vice Chair and Chair of the Consensus Standards Approval Committee; is co-Chair of the Admissions/Readmission Standing Committee; and is rolling off as co-Chair of the Hospital Workgroup for the Measures Application Partnership. Ms. Travis also serves on other national boards and committees, including serving as Chair of the Board of Governors for the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions; Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for The Leapfrog Group; and as a member of the Employer Advisory Council for the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

NQF also announced seven new members of its Board of Directors encompassing diverse private and public healthcare leaders from across the country.

“The diverse composition of our Board is central to NQF’s commitment to drive multiple perspectives into actions that create measurable health improvements for every person,” said NQF President and CEO Shantanu Agrawal, MD, MPhil. “We are excited to enter the new year with Board members focused on tackling national health needs.”

The new NQF Board members include:

Jeffrey Brady, MD, MPHDesignee for Gopal Khanna, MBA, Director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Dr. Brady has served as the Director of AHRQ's Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety since 2014. He is as a member of the AHRQ Senior Leadership Team and leads a part of the Agency that conducts several AHRQ programs, including: Patient Safety Research, Healthcare-Associated Infections Prevention, Patient Safety Organization Program, National Healthcare Quality & Disparities Report (NHQDR) Program, and measurement initiatives such as the AHRQ Quality Indicators and the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) survey resources. Before moving to AHRQ in December 2006, Dr. Brady served as a medical officer and clinical reviewer for the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Vaccines. Additionally, he has held positions as a medical epidemiologist for the Department of Defense and primary care physician in the U.S. Navy.

Susan B. Frampton, PhDPresident, Planetree International

Dr. Frampton is President of Planetree International, a non-profit advocacy and membership organization working to implement person-centered models of care. She speaks internationally on culture change and the patient experience. In 2009, Dr. Frampton was named one of “20 People who Make Healthcare Better” by Health Leaders Magazine. She has authored numerous publications, including the three editions of Putting Patients First (Jossey-Bass 2004, 2008, 2013), and served as lead author on the National Academy of Medicine’s Harnessing Evidence and Experience to Change Culture, released in early 2017.

Garth Graham, MD, MPH, FACP, FACCVice President of Community Health & Impact, CVS Health, President, Aetna Foundation

Dr. Graham is a cardiologist, public health expert, and a leading authority on social determinants of health. He oversees the community health initiatives for CVS Health, bringing his experience as a former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama and Bush administrations, where he also ran the Office of Minority Health.

Thomas Kottke, MD, MSPHMedical Director for Well-being, HealthPartners

Dr. Kottke is a clinical cardiologist in HealthPartners Medical Group and a researcher at the HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in addition to serving as Medical Director for Well-being at HealthPartners. He is board certified in internal medicine and the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and holds the academic rank of Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Kameron Leigh Matthews, MD, JD, FAAFPDeputy Undersecretary for Health for Community Care, Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Matthews is a board-certified family physician, advocate, and policy maker with a career focus on underserved patient populations. Overseeing a national budget of more than $14 billion, she is responsible for the community-based provider network and services that increase access to care for Veterans and select family members nationwide, as well as the associated business processes including claims operations and management, revenue cycle, and quality oversight. In 2017 she was named one of National Minority Quality Forum’s 40 Under 40 Leaders in Minority Health.

Shannon Connor Phillips, MD, MPH, FAAP, SFHMChief Patient Experience Officer, Intermountain Healthcare

Dr. Phillips leads the office of patient experience at Intermountain Healthcare, the largest integrated healthcare delivery system in the Intermountain West, a team catalyzing safety, quality, and experience of care. In 2018, she was named to Becker’s Hospital Review’s 30 Hospital and Health System CXOs to Know list. Her vision is that healthcare is an empathic and effective human experience. Prior to joining Intermountain, she served as Cleveland Clinic’s first patient safety officer and as associate chief quality officer.

Lisa WoodsSenior Director, U.S. Strategy & Design of Benefits for Walmart Stores, Inc.

Woods is a nationally recognized innovator and thought leader in healthcare. She was named to Fortune magazine’s World’s Greatest Leaders (#10) in 2019 as a result of her efforts for driving and influencing positive change in the healthcare industry.

Click here to see the full NQF Board of Directors roster.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Sunday, January 5, 2020

Continued Upward Momentum in Memphis Hospital Safety Grades

In the fall 2019 round of The Hospital Safety Grade, the percentage of Memphis hospitals with an “A” (40%) continued to surpass the national average (33%)! And, the percentage of Memphis hospitals with an "A" and "B" (60%) also surpassed the national average (58%).  Just two years ago, only 10% of Memphis area hospitals received an "A" and only 20% received an "A" and "B". 

"We are pleased to see this continued momentum in the improvement of Memphis area hospital's Hospital Safety Grades. Sustained improvement over time results in fewer preventable medical mistakes, less patient and family suffering, and even lower costs," said Cristie Upshaw Travis, CEO of the Memphis Business Group on Health (MBGH). MBGH is the Leapfrog Regional Leader for eastern Arkansas, west Tennessee, and north Mississippi.

In the greater Memphis area, 10 hospitals were graded, and four (4) earned an “A,” two (2) earned a “B,” five (5) earned a “C.”  No Memphis hospitals earned a "D" or an “F.” Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown, Methodist University Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital – Bartlett, and Saint Francis - Memphis  received an “A”. Methodist North Hospital and Methodist South Hospital each received a “B”.  Methodist University, Methodist South, and Regional One increased their grades from the spring 2019 release. Methodist Olive Branch did not have sufficient information to receive a grade.

For detailed results on all Memphis hospitals click here.

The fall 2019 Hospital Safety Grade release coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Institute of Medicine's To Err is Human report which focused the nation's attention on the nearly 100,000 deaths a year due to preventable medical mistakes. A recent analysis from The Johns Hopkins Armstong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality found that 45,000 fewer deaths occurred in 2018 compared to 2015, based on the prevalence of safety problems in hospitals receiving a Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade.

 “The findings of the IOM report, published two decades ago, laid the foundation of what The Leapfrog Group stands for today,” said Leah Binder, CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “We commend others who have joined us in the drive for transparency, including the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, which commits to public reporting of safety data, employers and payors, who put appropriate pressure on facilities to make performance data available, and hospitals that publicly report on their safety and quality.”

Click here to access safety grades for over 2,600 hospitals nationwide.

Here is a tool kit for employers to use as you evaluate the impact of hospital safety on your health benefit plans and your employees and their families. This toolkit also includes communication material you can share with your employees so they can get the safest care possible.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, December 2, 2019

Want to Reduce Waste in Health Benefits?

A meta-analysis of 54 peer-reviewed publications, government reports, and the "gray literature" estimates that 25% of total healthcare spending can be classified as waste ( Shrank WH, Rogstad TL, Parekh N. Waste in the US Health Care System: Estimated Costs and Potential for Savings. JAMA. Published online October 07, 2019. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.13978; accessed 10/10/19).

This publication advances our understanding of where this waste is actually occurring, potential savings, and even actions that can be taken to reduce waste.

The following charts use the highest estimates of waste and potential savings (estimated at a conservative 25% of waste) to help us target waste-reducing actions that are both impactful and practical. Note, the literature did not estimate potential savings for administrative complexity.

The interventions with the highest potential savings most applicable to employer actions include:

  • Integration of behavioral and physical health
  • Care coordination in Accountable Care Organizations
  • Transitional care programs
  • Optimizing medication use
  • Insurer-based pricing interventions (through actions such as standardized pricing; negotiations; value-based design and purchasing)

What can you do?

  • Get a copy of the full article here (you may need to pay a fee) to see the complete list of areas of potential savings. MBGH employer purchaser members check with for additional details prior to accessing the article.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the waste-reduction strategies you already have in place. Where do those strategies fall on the complete list? Are they working? If not, can you identify why? What tweaks need to be made?
  • Identify the high impact interventions listed above that you are not addressing. Consider actions you can take and develop implementation plans.

MBGH can assist our employer purchaser members understand more of the applicable findings of this publication and in these steps. We will also explore best practices and share current approaches to these high priority interventions with each other in our Health Benefits Peer Roundtable and Health & WellBeing Peer Roundtable. Reach out to for more information. 

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, October 17, 2019

On the Minds of Health Benefits Managers: Health Plan Design and Management Tips

Questions abound as health benefits managers rise to meet the challenges of changing health landscape, so we sat down with Joseph McCool, Principal of The McCool Group and moderator of the Employer Panel at Validation Institute’s Memphis Health Care Benefits Summit, to talk through some of the hot-button topics we’ve heard from employers while out on the road.

  1. Ensure employees have access to outcome-driven primary care physicians to reduce costs over time

Healthcare management is rapidly expanding, putting new tools in the hands of both HR professionals and employees. “At an enterprise level,” Mr. McCool explained, “it means instituting controls such as pre-authorization for medical procedures. At the individual employee level, it means offering biometrics services to help individuals understand their current risk factors for disease and illness.”

Awareness of these risk factors is only the first step, however. To reduce costs over time, individuals need to work with outcome-driven primary care physicians, and employers need to ensure that employees have access to those quality health care providers under their health plan.

  1. Communicate why changes in healthcare coverage are needed

According to Mr. McCool, transparency with employees is key: “You may not satisfy everyone, but you have to make a concerted effort to communicate why changes in healthcare coverage are needed and draw the line on change initiatives that would fundamentally alter the broader employer-employee relationship.” You can’t control what your company can afford, but you can control the way you explain it to those most affected, and do your best to ensure employees feel heard and appreciated.

  1. Engage with advisors, including business coalitions, to better understand the impact of cost-reduction strategies on the company and the employee

While benefits brokers, as Mr. McCool explains, can do much of the heavy lifting to piece together multiple options to manage spend and expand offerings that makes sense, working with local and national organizations like the Memphis Business Coalition on Health, rounds out your decision-making. These organizations are great sources for networking and also provide an opportunity to share ideas and lessons learned. Most importantly, they’re focused on helping its members take the flood of knowledge they receive from meetings, news articles, and other advisors and channel it all into meaningful, actionable steps.

  1. Demonstrate to employees that how they procure healthcare services impacts the cost of their insurance

Conversations about usage, preventive care, and outlining the benefits of the various services you offer, like telemedicine, are highly valuable but often overlooked. “If employees who don’t regularly go for physical exams continue using the local Emergency Room as a catch-all for every health issue, those costs will really stack up on the employer,” Mr. McCool advises. “Putting highly individualized health information into the hands of employees is a first-step toward managing costs and convincing employees that healthcare cost management can help preserve their jobs and the future of the company that employs them.”

The stress of benefits administration can be significantly reduced by understanding the resources available to you, finding trusted partners and colleagues to help guide you through the process, and empowering employees to take their healthcare by the reins to be an essential part of the solution.

To learn more about these topics, sign up for Validation Institute’s upcoming Memphis Health Care Benefits Summit. MBGH members, CEO Culture of Health participants, and Annual Supporters should contact for the special registration link to receive your discount.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Memphis Surpasses National Average for "A" Hospitals

In this round of The Hospital Safety Grade, the percentage of Memphis hospitals with an “A” and “B” increased from 46% to 55%. Last year at this time only 20% of Memphis hospitals had an "A" and "B". Memphis now surpasses the national average (32%) with 36% of our hospitals receiving an "A".

In the greater Memphis area, 11 hospitals were graded, and four (4) earned an “A,” two (2) earned a “B,” four (4) earned a “C,” and one (1) earned a “D”. No Memphis hospitals earned an “F.” Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown, Methodist Olive Branch Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital – Bartlett, and Saint Francis - Memphis  received an “A”. Methodist North Hospital and Methodist University Hospital each received a “B”.

For detailed results on all Memphis hospitals click here.

"With 36% of our hospitals receiving an "A", Memphis is now above the national average of 32% and we are much closer to the national benchmark of 58% of the hospitals receiving an “A” or a “B”. Clearly this is good news! We are seeing some movement of hospitals between grades, but this type of movement has occurred in the past before grades became more predictable and sustainable.  Safety is not a one-and-done; it results from a culture that insists on safety every day for every patient. MBGH looks forward to seeing these improved grades sustained over time. We will then be confident that the improvements are foundational and long lasting.” said Cristie Upshaw Travis, CEO of the Memphis Business Group on Health, the Regional Leader for The Leapfrog Group for the Memphis-area, and Vice Chair of The Leapfrog Group Board of Directors.

Alongside its semiannual Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade update, Leapfrog contracted with The Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine to update its estimate of deaths due to errors, accidents injuries and infections at “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” and “F” hospitals. Researchers assessed more than 2,600 hospitals receiving Hospital Safety Grades and found that when compared to “A” hospitals patients at “D” and “F” hospitals face almost double (92% greater) risk of death. This reseach shows that compared to an "A" hospital your risk of dying increases 34.9% in a "B" hospital; 87.7% in a "C" hospital; and 91.8% in a "D" and "F" hospital (combined. If every hospital had the performance of an “A” hospital, an estimated 50,000 lives saved could be saved. Overall, the researchers concluded that an estimated 160,000 lives are lost annually due to avoidable medical errors that are accounted for in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade. See the report and infographic here.

These results reinforce the urgency in Memphis area hospitals continuing to improve the safety of care they provide. Memphians deserve to have the safest hospital care in the country. It seems we are on the right track, but still have work to do. Memphis Business Group on Health is committed to working together with our hospitals to achieve this as quickly as possible.

Click here to access safety grades for over 2,600 hospitals nationwide.

Here is a tool kit for employers to use as you evaluate the impact of hospital safety on your health benefit plans and your employees and their families. This toolkit also includes communication material you can share with your employees so they can get the safest care possible.


Posted by Cristie Travis at Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Implement a Mental Health Strategy

Over 80 stakeholders participated in MBGH's April 24, 2019 session designed to explore the components of a comprehensive worksite mental health strategy. Moving from component to component in small groups gave attendees a chance to share and learn from each other and think strategically about how to design benefits and well-being programs to support emotional health.

Take these steps to implement a comprehensive mental health strategy and consider adopting actions shared by other Memphis-area employers at our session!

(1) Know the Impact: Use wellness champions to understand personal impact on employees; include questions on employee surveys; track reasons for EAP utilization; analyze health benefit claims (medical and pharmacy); 

(2) Break the Silence: Hold lunch-n-learns and seminars; provide management training; offer mindfulness/resilience programs; coordinate with HR policies/procedures

(3) Provide Access to Affordable, High-Value Care: Offer some provider visits at no cost; provide tele-behavioral health; coordinate vendors for cross-referrals; communicate frequently the resources that are available

(4) Build a Culture of Well-being: Use the term "emotional health" vs "mental health"; elevate recognition and status of wellness champions and councils; provide health coaches; coordinate with community organizations

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, what better time than this to evaluate your mental health strategy to be sure you are addressing all four of these components!

Check out mental health resources to help you implement a strategy on MBGH's blog here

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, May 13, 2019

What About Mental Health and Substance Use Spend?

The spend picture for inpatient mental health and substance use looks different. Spend is being driven by both an increase in utilization and an increase in price.

Inpatient substance use increased utilization (18%) combined with significant prices increases (39%) increased spending per person by 64%! Inpatient mental health utilization remained relatively stable until 2017 when it increased 6%. A 14% increase in prices resulted in a 20% increase in spend.

MBGH's evaluation of the Addiction Recovery Medical Home with an alternative payment model, is designed to address rising spend that is very often not even accompanied by sustained recovery. Email to learn more about this initiative.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, April 18, 2019

Really Want to Control Your Health Spend?

1) Understand that price is the major driver behind spend. The Health Care Cost Institute's 2017 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report found that the total cumulative change in price from 2013-2017 was a 17.1% increase while utilization remained relaitvely stable. Overall spend increased 16.7% for this same time period. 

(2) Continue effective traditional approaches to control cost. Willis Towers Watson's 2018 23rd Annual Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey found employers taking these steps:

  • Concentrating on clinical conditions that drive high-cost claims
  • Better managing pharmacy, especially specialty pharmacy
  • Increasing utilization of centers of excellence, telemedicine, and high-performing networks
  • Evaluating "low point-of-care cost plans" as an option
  • Focusing on employee total "well-being"

You might think that the most effective way to decrease spend is to reduce the amount of care needed and used. But the industry has traditionally responded to utlization decreases with price increases resulting in keeping themselves "whole" and increasing your spend. 

(3) Pair effective traditional cost control approaches with explicit price control/reduction strategies, such as Medicare contracted reference-based pricing (i.e., no balance bill to patient). Other new payment models, such as bundled pricing, captitation, and global payments may also stem the tide of rising prices, but only if the negotiated price is set at a fair level and subject to resetting over time.

(4) Shift care to lower-price sites of care, such as home dialysis, freestanding infusion centers, ambulatory surgery centers.

These are just a few strategies that you should consider adding to your spend management. 

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, April 18, 2019

Are Flawed Denial Guidelines Being Used for Your Behavioral Health Coverage?

A recent court ruling found that United Behavioral Health (UBH), a division of United Health Group, used overly strict criteria for denying care, potentially excluding significant number of members, including children and adolescents, from accessing behavioral health services. Specifically, the court ruled that UBH violated it's fiduciary responsibilities and also failed to recognize chronic and complex behavioral health conditions and needs.

Read the article  on the court's ruling from Health Payer Intelligence.

What can you do to better understand the denial guidelines, and other policies, used by your health plan or behavioral health manager? Here are some suggestions:

Re-evaluate the results of the National Alliance's mental health deep dive in light of this ruling. Pay special attention to the section on Accreditation and Parity (page 14) to better understand that parity also applies to non-quantitative treatment limitations. The call-out box specifically refers to medical management standards limiting or excluding benefits. Check with your legal counsel and advisors re: the implications of excess denials re: these parity requirements.

Check out proposed FAQ's from HHS, DOL, Treasury on parity and the 21st Century Cures Act. 

Use this form to collect data on your actual denial rates. Compare behavioral health to medical/surgical denial rates to get a clear picture of this issue for your organization.

Use this model language and consider seeking indemnification from your vendor for certain aspects of parity non-compliance. 

Contract with an objective third-party vendor to audit parity compliance. Memphis area results from the national employer survey on mental health indicate that few external audits are being conducted.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, March 19, 2019

How Ending Medicare Drug Rebates Impacts You

Check out these resources to get a clearer picture of how the Trump Administration's proposed regulations ending drug rebates for Medicare Part D plans and Medicaid managed care plans (assuming they are finalized) impact you. 

HHS Fact Sheet on the Proposed Reguations: Check out the section on "What This Means for Private Plans" for the nuances of OIG rules and possible impications for you.

Modern Healthcare "Azar Suggests Commercial Plans Will Ditch Rebates Too" Secretary Azar calls out several reasons private payers are likely to follow Medicare's lead.

For more background information:

Better understand who is likely to benefit (and who is not) from rebates going away on Kaiser Health News

Focus on the purchaser perspective of the Trump Administration's evolving drug policy. Note the potential negative consequences for you if similar changes are not made in the private sector. Michael Thompson, CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, summarizes why ending rebates would benefit employer purchasers here and here.

Refresh your memory on how rebates work and The Impact of Prescription Drug Rebates on Health Plans and Consumers. There is a lot of detail here but for the bottom line focus on the Executive Summary and Background and those sections that specifically address private insurance. Interesting to note that $23Billion was paid out in rebates to private health plans in 2016, which is 12% of point-of-purchase spending. Generally rebates reduce the net cost of the health benefit and are reflected in lower premiums.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, February 14, 2019

Are Your Mental Health Benefits Effective?

Employers play a critical role in promoting and supporting employees and their families mental health as it impacts productivity, health status, quality of life, and health benefit costs.  MBGH believes it is important for mental health and well-being to sit equally along-side physical health.

In 2019 MBGH is focusing on understanding how Memphis employers are addressing mental health in your health benefits and well-being programs and we are offering specific training and learning sessions to assist you in enhancing the effectiveness of these benefits.

As part of this focus, here are some actions you can take now:

FOR MEMPHIS-AREA EMPLOYERS ONLY: Take this national survey of current employer attitudes and future directions re: mental health strategies. Survey participants get national results for benchmarking and MBGH will get a market-specific report to inform actions to help make your mental health strategies even more effective. Please respond by January 16, 2019Click here for a .PDF copy of the survey questions for your review. Please indicate you are a member of Memphis Business Group on Health. We ask that only one survey be submitted per organization so please coordinate with your co-workers on who will submit the survey.

Get templates and suggested contract language to strengthen your contracting practices related to mental health parity. 

•  Mental Health Parity Model Hold-Harmless Language

•  Mental Health Parity Model Data Request

Check-out these reports for critical information and steps employers are taking to effectively manage the cost and quality of their mental health benefits. 

•  Mental Health Deep Dive Report (see employer checklist in Appendix 1)

•  Mental Health Action Brief

•  AHA CEO Roundtable Mental Health

Participate in the mental health events detailed below and throughout the year that will provide you with specific actions you can take in the workplace.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, January 7, 2019

Purchasers Guide to PBM Quality 2018 Gives Employers Critical Performance Data

The "Purchasers Guide to PBM Quality 2018" from MBGH and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions reports on comparative performance of PBMs; provides special reports on cutting-edge PBM practices; and gives you specific action steps you can take now to improve pharmacy benefit cost and quality.  

The blinded public report can be used by employers as a discussion guide with your PBM to explore and benchmark their performancce as well as set expectations for future improvements.

MBGH employer members can get an UNBLINDED report revealing specific PBM performance by emailing Cristie Travis at 

Participating PBMs cover over 119 million covered lives and include:

  • BeneCard PDF
  • Cigna
  • CVS Health
  • Express Scripts
  • Maxor Plus
  • Navitus
  • OptumRx
  • Perform Rx
  • United Health Care

Specific areas of importance to employers that are reported include (1) specialty pharmaceutical management, (2) outpatient quality, safety, and adherence, (3) efficiency, (4) pharmaceutical support: CAD, diabetes, mental health, (5) pharmaceutical support: tobacco, obesity, (6) program organization, (7) cultural competency, (8) price transparency, and (9) business practices.

 Click here for a copy of the public report.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, November 27, 2018

More Memphis Hospitals Earn Top Scores on Hospital Safety Grade

In this round of The Hospital Safety Grade, the percentage of Memphis hospitals with an “A” and “B” increased from 20% to 46%. 

In the greater Memphis area, 11 hospitals were graded, and two (2) earned an “A,” three (3) earned a “B,” five (5) earned a “C,” and one (1) earned a “D”. No Memphis hospitals earned an “F.” Methodist Olive Branch Hospital and Saint Francis Hospital – Bartlett both received an “A”. Baptist Memorial Hospital Memphis, Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, and Saint Francis Hospital - Memphis each received a “B”.

For detailed results on all Memphis hospitals click here.

"Memphis is now much closer to the national benchmark of 56% of the hospitals receiving an “A” or a “B”. However, our market still has work ahead of us to reach benchmark and, as we would all want and Memphians deserve, surpass it and become a national leader in safety.  Safety is not a one-and-done; it results from a culture that insists on safety every day for every patient. MBGH looks forward to seeing these improved grades sustained over time. We will then be confident that the improvements are foundational and long lasting. On behalf of Memphis employers, purchasers, and patients, we are committed to working together to make Memphis the safest community in America,” said Cristie Upshaw Travis, CEO of the Memphis Business Group on Health, the Regional Leader for The Leapfrog Group for the Memphis-area.

The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit aiming to improve health care quality for consumers, employers and purchasers, announced today the fall 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades. The independent grading system assigns “A,” “B,” “C,” “D” and “F” letter grades to general acute-care hospitals in the U.S. based on their ability to protect patients from avoidable errors, injuries, accidents and infections.

In the wake of the high stakes mid-term election, neither party can claim victory in addressing preventable errors and infection in hospitals. The fall 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades show that 33 percent of hospitals in traditionally blue states and 32 percent of hospitals in traditionally red states earned “A’s.” As recently as September 2018, The Leapfrog Group testified at a hearing of the United States’ Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, chaired by Tennessee’s Senator Lamar Alexander, offering guidance for a bipartisan approach to improving transparency of patient safety data and making progress on safety.

“The Hospital Safety Grades give the American public information they need and deserve about the safety of their hospitals. Avoidable medical errors and infections in hospitals are still the third leading cause of death in the nation, and that’s not a partisan issue,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “We commend Memphis Business Group on Health for making this a priority.”

Developed under the guidance of a National Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign the grades to more than 2,600 U.S. hospitals twice per year. The Hospital Safety Grade’s methodology is peer-reviewed and fully transparent, and the results are free to the public.

For more information about the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, as well as individual grades and state rankings please visit and follow The Leapfrog Group on Facebook and Twitter. Journalists interested in scheduling interviews should email

About Memphis Business Group on Health

Since 1985, Memphis Business Group on Health (MBGH) has brought employers, with approximately 375,000 covered lives in Tennessee, together to share solutions, make connections, and provide tools to manage the cost and quality of their health benefits in an ever-changing environment. MBGH accomplishes this by providing access to critical market data, facilitating best practice sharing among the areas leading employers, and offering practical tools for successfully managing health benefits and creating cultures of health in the workplace. MBGH has been a Regional Leader for The Leapfrog Group since 2002.

About The Leapfrog Group

Founded in 2000 by large employers and other purchasers, The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization driving a movement for giant leaps forward in the quality and safety of American health care. The flagship Leapfrog Hospital Survey collects and transparently reports hospital performance, empowering purchasers to find the highest-value care and giving consumers the lifesaving information they need to make informed decisions. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, Leapfrog's other main initiative, assigns letter grades to hospitals based on their record of patient safety, helping consumers protect themselves and their families from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.


Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, November 8, 2018

It's Time To Better Manage Your Mental Health Benefits

Two recent publications from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions make it clear that there is much work to be done to improve the cost and quality of mental health services and to deliver on the promise of parity of mental health with physical health benefits. These publications provide employers with specific actions you can take internally and with your mental health services vendors to start the work.

Use the National Alliance's latest Action Brief "Mental Health: Accelerating Action for Parity and Peak Performance" as a checklist of employer best practices; compare what you are doing now; and identify actions you need to take to better manage the cost and quality of your mental health benefits. This Action Brief (click here) lays out specific actions employers should take to (1) Know the Impact, (2) Break the Silence, (3) Ensure Parity and Affordable Access, and (4) Build a Culture of Wellbeing that includes mental health. 

Meet with your health plan or behavioral health organization (BHO) about how they performed on critical purchaser requirements for mental health benefits and services in the National Alliance's report "Achieving Value in Mental Health Support: A Deep Dive Powered by eValue8" (click here for report). MBGH members have been sent codes to unblind the report. If you need another copy, please email 

Both of these resources reveal that there is significant work that employers can do internally (Action Brief) and that health plans and BHOs can do (Deep Dive). Using the resources together gives you an understanding of the total picture and a pathway to more effectively manage the cost and quality of your mental health benefits.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Hospitals Have Bar Code Medication Administration But Don't Always Use It Right

A recent report from The Leapfrog Group and Castlight shows that only 1/3 of the hospitals fully-met Leapfrog's standards for bar code medication administration. Get a copy of the report here.

Most surprising, and very dangerous from a patient safety perspective, was that 42% of the hospitals were failing to scan BOTH the patient and the medication 95% of the time!

Memphis hospitals, on average, reflect this national experience, with 40% of our hospitals not meeting the 95% standard.

Note: Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation hospitals did not report. They will report this year so we will have this information for them in the summer.

Use the report to educate your employees about the steps that should be taken for bar code medication administration to protect their safety! Especially tell your employees to be sure that when given medication, both the patient and the medication are scanned!

Click here to see how Memphis-area hospitals scored on other aspects of bar code medication administration.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Wednesday, June 6, 2018

To Err is Human Screening Spurs Community Dialogue on Patient Safety

On Friday, May 25, 2018, the Memphis healthcare community gathered for a screening of To Err is Human: A Patient Safety Documentary, followed by a panel discussion about shared solutions to reduce preventable medical mistakes among health care organizations throughout the Mid-South.

Hosted by the Memphis Business Group on Health, Southern College of Optometry, and the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, the event featured a sneak preview screening of Mike Eisenberg’s film To Err is Human. The film, set to be released in November 2018, explores the United States’ third-leading cause of death: medical mistakes, which lead to as many as 440,000 preventable deaths each year. It also follows Sue Sheridan, whose family experienced a variety of medical errors that caused long-term health issues.

Cristie Upshaw Travis, Chief Executive Officer of the Memphis Business Group on Health (far left) and Lewis Reich, President of Southern College of Optometry (far right) welcomed the filmmakers, Mike Eisenberg, Director and Producer, and Kailey Brackett, Lead Producer. 

Following the film, Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO, moderated a first-of-its-kind panel discussion and Q&A session with representatives from Memphis’ four major hospital systems to address preventable medical mistakes and how their systems can work together to reduce error and improve care throughout the Mid-South. Participants (L-R) in the panel were:

  • Reginald Coopwood – Chief Executive Officer, Regional One Health
  • Jennifer Chiusano - Chief Nursing Officer, Saint Francis Hospital Memphis 
  • Michael Ugwueke – Chief Executive Officer, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
  • Cristie Upshaw Travis - Chief Executive Officer, Memphis Business Group on Health
  • Henry Sullivant – Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation

Here are some highlights from the discussion:

Although patient safety is a national issue, it’s especially prevalent in Memphis. According to the spring 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades, just 20 percent of hospitals earned an A or B. This compares to 94 percent in Nashville, 81 percent in St. Louis, 62 percent in Birmingham, Alabama, and 50 percent in Jackson, Mississippi. 

Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation's Blue Brain project asks staff to "show their thinking"  so they can be properly trained to approach complex work and situations appropriately. Baptist has reduced bedside blood culture contamination by 50 percent through this method.

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare requires all associates and medical staff to complete patient safety training in order to practice in their facilities or be scheduled for work.

Regional One Health focuses on the actual numbers of medical errors, not the error rates. Focusing on the numbers keeps the patient impact front-and-center -- each number is a patient that experienced harm.

Saint Francis Hospital Memphis senior leaders audit specific key processes, such as surgical safety measures, in real-time, to monitor compliance and identify opportunities for improvement. 

At the end of the discussion, it was suggested that the health systems identify a patient safety action they could all take together, at the same time, to have a significant improvement across the entire community. The health systems all going tobacco free campus on the same day increased the visibility of the harms from tobacco use; showed the health system leadership on a critical health issue; and provided a community standard for what it meant to work in healthcare in Memphis. A similar approach can be considered for patient safety.

Interested learning more? Contact Cristie at

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Trump's "American Patients First" Blueprint To Reduce Drug Costs: The Employer Perspective

On May 11, the Trump Administration released "American Patients First," the President's blueprint to lower drug prices and reduce out-of-pocket costs for consumers. The document identifies four challenges: 1) high list of prices for prescription drugs, 2) lack of price negotiation tools in federal health programs, 3) high and rising out-of-pocket costs for consumers and 4) US footing the bill for lack of foreign countries' investment in research and development. 

The plan identifies four key strategies for reform in two phases, including actions the President may direct HHS to take immediately, and actions HHS is considering, on which feedback is being solicited. The four strategies are: 1) increased competition, 2) better negotiation, 3) incentives for lowering list prices, and 4) lowering out-of-pocket costs.

Click here to read the full Health Policy in Transit brief, focused on the employer's perspective.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, June 5, 2018

MBGH Announces May 2, 2018 Lightning Round Contestants

Note our new time!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Rhodes College
Bryan Campus Life Center
McCallum Ballroom, second floor
8:30 am - 11:30 am

A hot breakfast will be served!

Join us as we recognize our CEO Culture of Health participants that met program requirements in 2017 and area hospital(s) for their performance in quality and safety. 

In addition to our recognitions you will participate in "Lightning Rounds" where three of our Annual Supporters will give you 15-minute "lightning-fast" presentations! Moving around the room from presentation to presentation in small groups will keep you active, engaged, and provide you a networking opportunity. And you will leave the meeting with ideas about how to better engage your employees and refresh your health and wellness programs.

This year we will be taking pictures of teams and their award during the Lightning Rounds as well as recognizing you during the awards part of the meeting.

MBGH Members, Annual Supporters, and CEO Culture of Health participants are all invited!

Thank you to our sponsors: BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Cigna!

Click here to register.

Our Lightning Round contestants are:

Adventia Wellness's patent-pending software identifies early on individuals at hidden and rising risk for heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Adventia applies the latest science not typically used by physicians or in corporate-sponsored wellness programs and draws on lessons from behavioral health, which helps drive engagement and sustain change.  A four-year corporate wellness program with Varsity Spirit in Memphis helped participants lose weight and waist circumference, reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides without medications, and returned diabetic and pre-diabetic glucose levels to normal. Adventia Wellness has been offered through providers and programs in four states.


LifeSpeak is being presented by MBGH Annual Supporter Connect Healthcare Collaboration. LifeSpeak delivers the world’s leading experts directly to employees through an easy to use digital well-being platform. The short, expert-led videos and podcasts, give employees easy access to over 1,800 custom produced sessions and tip sheets. Topics include preventive health, mental health, physical conditions (such as diabetes), marital relationships, parenting, financial well-being, and more!


WellDoc's BlueStar diabetes management platform is an FDA-cleared diabetes personal assistant for your employees. with type 2 diabetes. BlueStar provides personalized, real-time feedback that improves self-management. Features include patient-to-provider connection, in-app education adapted from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and 24/7 tailored self-management support. BlueStar provides significant A1c reduction on average of 1.7 to 2.0 points, based on clinical outcome data from randomized trials and real-world programs.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, April 5, 2018

Patients Overpay for Prescriptions 23% of the Time

A new study released by the University of Southern California found that the 1.9 million people that filled 9.5 million prescriptions in the first 6 months of 2013 overpaid for those prescriptions 23% of the time for a total of $135 million in overpayments.

Turns out, their copay was higher than the full cost of the drug. Referred to as a "clawback", the middlemen that handle drug claims essentially "claw back" the difference between the higher copay and the lower cost of the drug from the retail drug store. 

Although the amount per prescription that is clawed-back is often small, the frequency with which this happens results in significant overpayments. Clawbacks on generic drugs averaged $7.32 and were $13.46 on brand-name drugs.

Patients aren't often told they could pay less if they don't use their insurance.

Some insurance companies actually prohibit pharmacists from telling paitents. On March 14, bi-partisan federal legislation was introduced to ban "gag clauses" prohibiting pharmacists from informing patients they could save money if they paid in cash. Several states have already passed legislation to rein in clawbacks and prohibit gag clauses.

There has been increased legal activity around clawbacks and gag clauses in recent years with cases against UnitedHealth, Cigna, Humana, and OptumRX. This month, a federal judge allowed a proposed class action law suit against Cigna to proceed.

Employers should review their health plan and PBM contracts to determine how these types of overpayments are handled. Gregory I. Madsen of Innovative Rx Strategies recommends that employers include "the lowest of" language to ensure that their employees pay the lowest of the discounted ingredient cost, the pharmacy's usual & customary, or the co-pay, and not just automatically the co-pay.

Information for this article was provided by Bloomberg NewsCFO Daily News, and Kaiser Health News.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Unpacking Spending Growth

On March 13, 2018, the pronouncement was made that in 2016 price, once again, was the major reason the U.S. spends twice as much on health care as other developed countries (JAMA.2018;319(10):1024-1039). 

At the end of their article the authors frame this a health policy issue: “As patients, physicians, policy makers, and legislators debate the future of the health care system, data such as these are needed to inform policy decisions.”

Categorizing U.S. health care prices as a health policy issue seems somehow to let the rest of us off the hook. But how can we leave it up to policy makers when the prices employers and employees are paying today are the real underlying cause of their increasing spend?

Perhaps there has not been enough private sector action on price because the significance of the issue has not been recognized. A new report from Memphis Business Group on Health lays out the case that price deserves increasing employer attention. 

The complete report, based on analyses conducted by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) ( and published in HCCI's 2016 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report (January 2018) and Issue Brief #13 (August 2017), is available to MBGH employer Members and Annual Supporters. The report includes MBGH-prepared charts, graphs, and analysis focused on the points of interest to employers, including upper-level management, that make the case for focus on price.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Total U.S. health care spending increased 4.6% from 2015 to 2016, the highest increase in the last four years
  • Nationally, utilization actually declined from 2012 to 2016 for inpatient (-12.9%), outpatient (-0.5%, although there was an approximately -5% from 2012-2014), and professional service (-2.9%) categories. Prescription drugs was the only category to experience a slight increase (1.8%)
  • During this same time period, cumulative price increases occurred across all categories ranging from a low of approximately 15% for professional services to a high of approximately 25% for prescription drugs. 
  • Declining utilization along with significant increases in prices resulted in total spending increasing 15% from 2012 to 2016.
  • In Memphis, prices were consistently below national averages in inpatient, outpatient, and physician services for the period 2012-2014.
  • With the exception of inpatient services, Memphis prices closely mirrored national increases from 2012 to 2014.
  • Memphis prices were in the middle of the pack with Nashville being a higher priced market and Knoxville being a lower priced market.

Please refer to the publications on for detailed descriptions of data sources, methods, and limitations of this information.

It is not surprising that as utilization has declined (almost across the board), price has increased. If the health care system wants to maximize revenue while experiencing declining utilziation, the only reaction is for them to increase prices. Since employers and their employees and families are paying for these price increases, they are the ones bearing this burden; often to the detriment of their own business and personal financial status.

Although prices in Memphis were consistently below the U.S. average (2012-2014), we know that the U.S. average is too high and is increasing significantly across all categories and local rates are increasing similarly (except for inpatient). Memphis may be fairing better than many markets but we should not take comfort that our high prices are lower than high prices in other markets.

The impact of price on spend means that employers need to change their purchasing approach, moving away from the traditional focus on discounts, to more targeted purchaser strategies that unpack the growth spend and address the underyling factors of price, utilization, and quality/safety. The MBGH report suggests strategies employers should deploy, such as analyzing their own data to identify price and utilization trends; pegging payments to Medicare prices; setting fair prices in new payment models;  and selecting netowrks with high quality/safety performance.

If you work for an MBGH Member employer or Annual Supporter and have not yet received your copy of the complete report, please email for a copy.


Posted by Cristie Travis at Sunday, March 25, 2018

Employer's Role in the Opioid Crisis

Recent news on the economic toll of the opioid crisis and the impact on employers in terms of lost productivity and direct/indirect for their affected employees and families raises the question: what is the employer’s role in the opioid crisis? This is a presentation from MemphisBGH’s 2017 learning session outlining specific steps employers can take: Thank you to the National Safety Council for providing this guidance.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, February 15, 2018

Spotlight on Mental Health

The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions/MBGH Action Brief "Hope and Healing for Mental Illness is Possible" lays out the challenge for employers this way: " Mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability worldwide. As importantly, untreated depression and anxiety are leading causes of lost productivity and effectiveness in the workforce. In the U.S., about one in five adults will experience mental illness in a given year, 60 percent of whom don’t get help. Many who do reach out face a daunting labyrinth of high costs, a dearth of providers, and unsuccessful treatment, leading to waning motivation, hopelessness, and progressively worse symptoms." 

This is not a pretty picture for employers, but most importantly, it is not a pretty picture for your employees and their families. The Action Brief discusses how employers can take five specific actions to address these challenges:

  • Require independent validation of mental health parity compliance
  • Reduce barriers to in-network access to behavior health professionals
  • Promote the collaborative care model
  • Support acess to mental health medication options
  • Support, engage, and advocate for employee mental health and well-being. 

Click here to get a copy of the Action Brief.

Other Actions for Employers

Use the Working Well: Leading a Mentally Healthy Business toolkit from the Northeast Business Group on Health, to (1) know the impact (2) break the silence (3) deliver affordable access and (4) build a culture of well-being. Find valuable employer action steps, resources, and case studies to help shape your approach to mental health.

Read this blog, from our sister-coalition the Minnesota Health Action Group, on actually delivering on the promise of mental health parity.

Attend the Methodist Healthcare Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network mental health breakfast on March 6 where Marlie Matlin, Academy Award-winning actress and mental health activist, will share her personal story and highlight the importance of acceptance and help for those with mental health concerns. There will also be breakout session on opioid abuse, domestic violence, and adverse childhood events (ACEs). Click here for more information and to register.

Get results, later this year, from the National Alliance and MBGH deep dive into how health plans and mental health-specialty managers perform on essential elements of mental health services provided to employers and employees.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Are 80% of Your Employees 50+ Getting Regular Colorectal Cancer Screenings?

March is national colorectal cancer screening month! 

Screening Matters

According to the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, “Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the U.S when men and women are combined. Yet it is one of the most preventable.

The business community has an important role to play in promoting colorectal cancer screening and much to gain on saving on health care costs, promoting a healthy workforce with increased productivity, and demonstrating corporate social responsibility.

Join the national and Tennessee effort to get 80% of adults age 50 and older regularly screened for colorectal cancer.”

If we reach 80%, there can be fewer than 200,000 colorectal deaths in less than 20 years. Tennessee consistently ranks above the national rate for colorectal cancer and colorectal cancer mortality so we have s significant opportunity to save lives right here in our state.

Campaign Support is Available

1. Start your colorectal cancer screening campaign in March, and continue it through the rest of the year!

Sign the corporate pledge at

2. Have a colorectal cancer awareness event or highlight colorectal cancer screening at your next health fair

Contact Cristie Upshaw Travis at if you want to learn more about Gastro One participating and actually setting up colonoscopy appointments for your staff. 

3. Use turn-key communication tools and material for ease of implementation:

National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable:

  • Short messages suitable for internal email blasts and/or social media
  • Leadership letter to employees
  • Communication guidebook

Click here for more information on how employers can support increased screening

Love Your Colon

  • Newsletter
  • Flyer
  • Tent cards
  • Pledge card
  • Post card
Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, February 5, 2018

Get Ready for "It's Quittin' Time in Tennessee"

February 5-9, 2018 is "It's Quittin' Time in Tennessee" week, a statewide campaign to promote awareness of and resources for quitting smoking. Click here to download the graphic and use it in your communications to show your employees this is a community-wide campaign! Feel free to continue, or even start, your own campaign in the weeks and months after the official week.

The evidence is clear why employers should care:

  • Quitting smoking saves lives, improves health and reduces health care costs.
  • Reducing workforce smoking rates improves employee health, increases productivity and saves dollars.
  • Reducing tobacco use rates promotes healthy communities from which you pull your employees.
  • There are resources available to help: Tennessee Quitline, local quit programs and health provider interventions

Frame this week as a kickoff to a campaign around tobacco cessation and plan to celebrate those that quit at the Great American Smokeout in November!

Here are some easy to implement suggestions, and resources, but be creative! We will post more specific "It's Quittin' Time In Tennessee" material as it becomes available.

Be sure your employees know the benefits you offer them! This is a great week to highlight all the insurance benefits and tobacco and smoking programs you offer.

Consider a daily employee communication that week. You may want to take a page each day from 10 Things You Should Know About Quitting Smoking or Plan to Quit Cards 

NEW: Offer, or announce, upcoming, smoking cessation classes. Share information about UT Health Science Center's research study focused on helping people manage their weight when the quit smoking. There are no costs for those that qualify to participate and they receive telephonic smoking cessation counseling, free Chantix, as well as weight managent support. Employees can call 901-448-2000 to learn more and checkout the website at htttps://

Here are some general resources you will find helpful:

Posted by Cristie Travis at Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Memphis Has a Top Hospital! Le Bonheur Named a Leapfrog Top Children's Hospital

On December 7, 2017, The Leapfrog Group announced Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital has been named to its 2017 national list of Top Children’s Hospitals. The elite award is one of the most competitive honors American hospitals can receive in safety and quality. The winning facilities were officially recognized at Leapfrog’s Annual Top Hospitals Ceremony in Arlington, VA. 

Cristie Upshaw Travis, CEO of the Memphis Business Group on Health, the Regional Leader for the Leapfrog Group in west Tennessee, north Mississippi and eastern Arkansas, and Acting Chair of the Leapfrog Group Board of Directors, presented the award to Le Bonheur. “For 10 years I have been recognizing Tennessee’s Top Hospitals, but this is the first time a Memphis-area hospital has made the list. I am so honored to recognize Le Bonheur’s commitment and achievements in quality and patient safety and thank them for the work it took to perform at this level”, said Travis. 

Donna Vickery, Director of Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at Le Bonheur, accepted the Top Hospital award from Leah Binder, Leapfrog CEO, and Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO and Acting Chair of the Leapfrog Group Board of Directors.

This year, Leapfrog recognized 109 Top Hospitals across the country. Of those, 10 were Top Children’s Hospitals, 45 Top General Hospitals, 18 Top Rural Hospitals and 36 Top Teaching Hospitals.

“Leapfrog Top Hospitals are the nation’s role models for putting patients first,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “We congratulate the Boards, management, clinicians, staff and volunteers whose dedication makes all the difference.”

The Top Hospital award is given to teaching, general, rural and children's hospitals that publicly report their performance through the Leapfrog Hospital Survey and meet the high standards defined in the Top Hospitals Methodology. This includes infection rates, maternity care and a hospital’s ability to prevent medication errors, among other standards. To see the full national list of institutions honored as 2017 Top Hospitals, please visit

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Memphis Hospitals React To Their Hospital Safety Grades

On October 31, 2017, the Leapfrog Group released their latest Hospital Safety Grade for over 2,600 hospitals in the US, including 10 hospitals within a 50-mile radius of Memphis. Memphis Business Group on Health is the Regional Leader for The Leapfrog Group in western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and eastern Arkansas.

Each hospital is assigned a grade of A,B,C,D, or F reflecting their overall performance in keeping patients safe from preventable harm and medical errors.

The grades are based on performance measures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control, and the American Hospital Association. Hospitals have access to the full methodology and are given an advance preview period. As Leapfrog points out “the grade is calculated by top patient safety experts, peer reviewed, fully transparent, and free to the public.”

In the Memphis-area, Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett was the only hospital to get an A. Even with this achievement, they didn’t sit on their laurels. As Chris Locke, Saint Francis-Bartlett CEO, put it on News Channel 3, “Although we are an A today, I tell our staff it doesn’t mean something bad can’t happen here…We have to stay on our toes." This is the attitude of an A hospital. Never relaxing; putting the patient first every minute of the day; using their A grade to recommit to patient safety.

Saint Francis-Bartlett

Methodist Germantown

Baptist Collierville

Baptist DeSoto

Methodist North

Methodist South

Methodist University

Saint Francis-Memphis

Baptist Memphis

Regional One











Source: Hospital Safety Grade, downloaded from on 11/28/17. Note: Hospitals not receiving a grade did not have sufficient volume to calculate performance. Pediatric and other specialty hospitals are not assigned a grade.

Click here to get the details on why these hospitals were assigned the grades they received. 

As you can see, other Memphis hospitals earned lower grades for safety, and they would be wise to take the same approach as Saint Francis-Bartlett: use their grade to push for progress. However, some hospitals tried to explain away their poor grades. Explanations included:

  • Not completing the Leapfrog Hospital Survey. Hospitals are not required to complete the survey and many who do not report received an A. That said, completing the survey is the right thing to do because it gives more information upon which to assign a grade. In addition, by completing the survey, hospitals can provide more recent information for several of the performance measures. And, the survey provides critical results on key conditions not covered in the Hospital Safety Grade, such as maternity care. Click here to get Leapfrog Hospital Survey results for the Memphis-area.
  • The data are old. Most of the data are from 2015 or 2016, the latest available. Some data provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are for 2013-2015, but is still the latest available. Also remember that by completing the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, hospitals can provide even more current data for several of the measures. The Hospital Safety Grade is updated every 6 months so that the most current available data is used to assign grades.
  • There are better proprietary, collaborative tools to measure and compare performance. These types of tools do serve a purpose in performance improvement. However, since a hospital’s results are not publicly released, they do not provide those of us that use and pay for care the information we need to make decisions or to hold hospitals accountable for the care they provide.

People in Memphis need, and deserve, to know this hospital safety data. More than 500 people die every day in the United States due to problems with safety in hospitals, like errors and infections. Memphis hospitals should be leading the way toward saving lives, not trying to explain away their poor grades. The humble approach that Saint Francis-Bartlett took in earning their A is a model for all of us on service to people who entrust their lives to a hospital.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, November 28, 2017

New Clinical Advisory Committee Facilitates Solutions for Memphis Employers

Memphis Business Group on Health's new Clinical Advisory Committee serves as a vehicle for understanding the priorities and challenges of Memphis-area self-insured employers so Committee member organizations can deploy innovative programs, services and solutions to meet those needs and contribute to their own overall success.

Initial members include:

  • Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation: Henry Sullivant, MD
  • Gastro One: Richard Aycock, MD
  • Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare: Aruther Townsend, MD
  • UTHSC's University Clinical Health: Brad Canada, MD

Over time the Committee will grow to a maximum of 10 member organizations.

The Committee will work together as a team and on a one-on-one basis with MBGH to explore and create solutions for priorities such as:

  • New provider payment models
  • Moving from wellness to well-being
  • Population health management
  • Clinical quality metrics for use in regional and national performance measurement and public reporting initiatives in which MBGH participates.

According to Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO, "At our August meeting our guest speaker, Scott Conard MD, reminded us all that disease is the enemy. With a focus on this point, this Committee is our place to engage directly with the clinical community to help MBGH and participating organizations create solutions that are win-win-win for employers, patients, and providers. We are committed to working together to defeat the common enemy of disease". 

For more information on the Clinical Advisory Committee contact Cristie Upshaw Travis at

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, September 5, 2017

PBM Evaluation Gives Employers Critical Performance Data

The "Understanding PBM Quality: 2016 National Alliance of Healtcare Purchaser Coalitions PBM Assessment" reports on 

areas where there is significant variation in PBM performance, areas where PBMs in general are successful, and where they all need to improve. 

The blinded public report can be used by employers as a discussion guide with your PBM to explore and benchmark their performancce as well as set expectations for future improvements.

MBGH employer members can get an UNBLINDED report revealing specific PBM performance by emailing Cristie Travis at 

Participating PBMs cover over 250 million covered lives, 80% of the market, and include:

  • Cigna
  • CVS Health
  • Envision Options
  • Express Scripts
  • OptumRx
  • Perform Rx
  • Magellan Rx
  • United Health Care

Specific areas of importance to employers that are reported include (1) program organization; (2) efficiency & appropriateness; (3) specialty pharmaceuticals; (4) outpatient quality, safety, & adherence; (5) pharmaceutical management in chronic disease and behavioral health;  (5) pharmaceutical management for tobacco cessation and weight management; and (6) business practices.

Click here for a copy of the public report.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Resolve MDx Wins MBGH Innovation Slam!

Congratulations to Resolve MDx, who was voted the "best slam" by judges at MBGH's August 23, 2017 Annual Conference "Innovation as Strategy".

As Christer Czajkoski of Resolve MDx put it during his slam, what is the most expensive drug in the world? The one that doesn't work! 

Resolve MDx deploys their intelligent prescribing solution, IQRx™, to enable the right drug, in the right dose, for the right individual.

Often described as personalized or precision medicine, Resolve MDx uses pharmacogenetic testing to better understand how an individual's genetic make-up impacts their response to medications. This testing, combined with IQRx, allows physicians to develop strategies and to optimize drug therapies for the patient based upon their unique characteristics, minimizing adverse drug reactions and drug-drug interactions.

Learn more about Resolve MDx at

Thank you as well to our two other slammers! Nic Patee of Work Right, demostrating the dorsaVI technology that helps employers better understand how employees are actually doing their job so work can be adjusted to minimize injuries; and Scott Vogel of Regional One's Center for Innovation who tested out the concept of a "genius bar" where patients can meet with clinical technologists to learn how to use technology to better manage their own health. 


Slammers had to present their product or concept; engage the audience; and build in a little entertainment: all in less than 7 minutes! Thanks to the audience as well for encouraging each of the slammers. A good time was had by all.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Sunday, September 3, 2017

MBGH Offers Discounted Online Education Courses

MBGH is partnering with Catalyst for Payment Reform (CPR) to provide discounted access to online courses desinged to help get better value for an organization's health care spend.

MBGH members, CEO Culture of Health participants, and HR/Benefit professionals at Partner and Patron-level conference sponsors are eligible for the discounts.

The 100-Level Course: Introduction to High-Value Health Care Purchasing is designed for benefit managers seeking to understand the marketplace and initial steps they can take. The regular price is $249. MBGH participants pay only $186.99 (25% discount)

The 200-Level Course: Strategies for High-Value Health Care Purchasing is designed for benefit manager seekiing to understand specific high-value strategies and take action. The regular price is $349. MBGH participants pay only $261.99 (25% discount)

Both courses are eligible for SHRM and HRCI continuing education credits.

Click here to learn more about the courses. Click "enroll today" on this website to get access to detailed course descriptions.

Contact Cristie Travis at to request your coupon code and registration link. 

Posted by Cristie Travis at Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Innovative Speakers Lined Up for MBGH Conference

We are excited to have these bright minds, full of innovative ideas, join us at MBGH's August 23 Wellness & Health Benefits Conference "Innovation as Strategy". More speakers will be announced soon! Click here to learn more and register!

Top Row: L to R: Roz Murray, Project and Research Manager, Catalyst for Payment Reform Innovation: Innovative Benefit Designs That Work; Greg Mansur, Principal, PwC, Innovation: Next Generation Benefit Strategies; Scott Conard, Physician, Author, Innovation: Creating Value Through Population Health

Middle Row: L to R: Laura Hammill, Chief People Officer, Limeade, Innovation: Moving from Wellness to Well-Being; Laurie Lee, Executive Director, State of TN Employee Benefit Plans, Innovation: Paying for Value

Bottom Row: L to R: Barbara McClanahan, Faculty, University of Memphis, Innovation: Innovation as a Strategy; Kristof Stremikis, Senior Manager, Pacific Business Group on Health, Innovation: Surviving Health Policy Changes (Again)

Posted by Cristie Travis at Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May Resources to Manage Cost & Quality of Health Benefits

Use these resources to manage the cost and quality of your health benefits.

ACA/AHCA Comparison Tool: Use the Kaiser Family Foundation's tool to compare the provisions of the American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 4, 2017 to the existing ACA

2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey ChartPack: Get slides from the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Education Trust 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey to help plan your benefit design for 2017 and use them in your presentations to others to support your decisions.

Employer Role in the Opioid Epidemic: Download the National Safety Council Employer Kit to get a guide on "The Proactive Role Employers Can Take: Opioids in the Workplace' as well as tools to review and update your benefits and drug-free workplace policies, fact sheets, safety talks, and posters. You will be surprised how much opioid abuse impacts your organization and the steps you can take to help your employees and mitigate your risks and costs.

Hospital Safety Grade: See how the hospitals in your network fared on the latest Hospital Safety Grade. If you have Methodist Olive Branch Hospital and Saint Francis Hospital Bartlett in your network, then you have access to the only 2 hospitals that scored an A in our market! If your network hospitals have a C or worse, ask them why and what they are doing to improve the care of the employees and their famiies your are sending them!

Vox Video on Hospital Responses to Hospital Acquired Central Line Infections: Learn how some hospitals respond to hospital acquired infections like the airline industry (zero tolerance) and others like the automobile industry (just the risk associated with driving). Did you know that Methodist Olive Branch, Methodist Germantown, Methodist University, Methodist North and Saint Francis Bartlett all had 0 central line infections in the latest Hospital Safety Grade? Check out how your network hospitals compare using the Hospital Safety Grade link above. Click on "view the full score" to see infection rates and other details.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, May 15, 2017

MBGH Joins the National Alliance in a New Vision for Specialty Drugs Marketplace

To drive collaboration to control cost, reduce waste and maximize effectiveness of specialty drugs, the non-profit National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (National Alliance) has developed stakeholder guidelines and an engagement framework.

“Specialty drugs are the fastest growing area of spend for employers today,” said Mike Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO. “While these new drugs are truly innovative and important, the specialty drug marketplace itself is dysfunctional with high cost, high variation and high waste. We need to collaborate with stakeholders to wring out the costs of poor quality and unwarranted cost, complexity and conflicts.”

The Five Rights framework targets critical issues and opportunities for specialty stakeholders including manufacturers, providers, health plans, and pharmacy benefit managers. The framework outlines key areas for each stakeholder to improve and was developed to raise purchaser expectations for industry stakeholders to help them better understand, evaluate and improve the specialty drug marketplace.

The Five Rights are: Right Drug, Right Price, Right Place, Right Support and Right Data. Employers should use the stakeholder engagement framework to evaluate how specialty drugs are managed by their PBM and health administrator and work with their vendors to take actions to bring their programs into alignment. 

The framework was developed as a collaborative effort of the National Alliance and several purchaser-led member coalitions including the Minnesota Health Action Group, Midwest Business Group on Health and the Florida Health Care Coalition. The information is being shared with purchaser coalitions across the country.

“After two years of intensive study, Action Group members developed this framework to offer a common ground for all stakeholders,” said Carolyn Pare, president and CEO for the Minnesota Health Action Group, developer of the initial Five Rights. “Offering a road map for the Right Drug, Right Price, Right Place, Right Support and Right Data, this framework provides insights for each stakeholder to do their part to deliver on that promise.”

Posted by Cristie Travis at Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Good News on Early Elective Deliveries; C-Sections Still Too Common

All moms want to give their baby a healthy start. But far too many hospitals are falling short of national quality metrics for things like early elective deliveries, C-sections, and episiotomies. A new report from @TheLeapfrogGroup and @CastlightHealth explores these issues that underscore why a family’s choice of birth hospital is so important.

Nationally, hospitals’ efforts to reduce their rate of early elective deliveries has been a tremendous success, declining to just 1.9% compared to 17.0% in 2010. The analysis also showed the rate of episiotomies has fallen to 9.6%. While this represents progress from the rate of 13.0% first reported in 2012, this rate is still significantly higher than Leapfrog’s target of 5% or less. The C-section rate of 25.8% is virtually unchanged from the prior year and is still higher than Leapfrog’s target rate of 23.9% or lower.

There has been significant improvement in the rates of early electve deliveries and C-sections in the past year in the Memphis market. Only Saint Francis Bartlett had an early elective delivery rate above 1% (3.3%). All hospitals, except Saint Francis Bartlett, either decreased their C-section rate or kept it constant. The hospital average C-section rate dropped from 28.0% to 24.9%. Click here to get hospital-specific results in Memphis.

“We must remain vigilant and continue to demand public reporting of this information to ensure the safety of mothers and their children, as well as to educate employers, purchasers and women themselves who have a powerful stake in the quality of maternity care,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of @TheLeapfrogGroup addresses that although the rate of early elective deliveries declined to near zero, there is still a lot of work to do to continue to reduce rates of C-section and episiotomies. Learn more about their new report on hospital performance:


Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 28, 2017

High Deductibles High Risks?

Employers continue to migrate toward high deductible health plans, but as more employers adopt this strategy and more employees are covered in these plans, there is an increased need to focus on avoiding unintended consequences such as forgoing needed care.

Check out this white paper from Abbvie which describes the current environment for high deductible plans, the potential challenges, and recommendations on steps employers should take to be sure these plans are effective.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Sunday, February 26, 2017

MBGH CEO Culture of Health Initiative Receives National Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 16, 2016

Contact: Bailey Jacobs, U.S. Chamber Foundation, 202-463-57              

Memphis Business Group on Health Named a Winner of the Inaugural Health Means Business Healthy10 Awards  

February 16, 2017—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Health Means Business campaign named Memphis Business Group on Health one of the 10 winners of the inaugural Healthy 10 Awards, in the category of workforce health.

Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO, and Claire Revels Shapiro, Director of Human Resources at Rhodes College and President of the MBGH Board of Directos, accepted the award. "MBGH accepts this award on behalf of the 64 employers that are creating cultures of health at the workplace and changing what it means to work in Memphis. This initiative, which also supports Healthy Shelby and Healthier Tennessee, results in health for our employees, success for our organizations, and, through our collective action, economic development for Memphis" said Travis in a pre-taped acceptance speech. Shapiro was at the awards ceremony to accept on behalf of MBGH.

The Health Means Business ‘Healthy10 Awards’ were created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a way to honor ten outstanding business-led initiatives or cross-sector collaborations between local businesses and traditional and non-traditional partners to improve community wellness and access to economic opportunity. 

"The Memphis Business Group on Health’s CEO Culture of Health initiative helps empower business leaders to be health champions,” said Marc DeCourcey, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “Business leadership is vital to creating a culture of health and it’s an honor to recognize this program."

The Chamber Foundation announced the winners of the Healthy10 Awards on February 16 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the awards program here.

# # #

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness. We educate the public on the conditions necessary for business and communities to thrive, how business positively impacts communities, and emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.

The U.S .Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, February 16, 2017

MBGH Joins the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions' Recommendations for Changing the ACA

Memphis Business Group on Health has joined with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (formerly National Buisness Coalition Health) calling upon the Trump Administration and US Congress to adopt specific principles as they consider "repeal and replace" or  even "repair". 

These principles aim to continue the advancements achieved through the ACA for new payment models moving from volume to value, increased transparency of quality and safety for providers, continued emphasis on research to identify most effective treatment, and support for employer-sponsored coverage including tax exclusion of benefits, flexibiity and innovation.

Click here to read the piece.

Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO, serves on the Board of Governors of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 14, 2017

MBGH and HealthCare 21 Awarded National Grant to Support Adoption of New Payment Models

Memphis Business Group on Health and HealthCare 21 Business Coalition Awarded Grant for Innovative Practices in Healthcare Payment Reform 

MBGH and HC21 are among the first four coalition projects to be awarded grants by the Purchaser Value Network to support our work across Tennessee to advance the adoption of new value-based payment models among both employers and providers. Key partners in our project include the State of Tennessee Health Care Innovation Initaitive, State of Tennessee Employee Benefit Administration, Cigna, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, self-insured employer members of MBGH and HC21, and other providers. 

The Purchaser Value Network has awarded initial matching grants, up to $50,000 each, to non-profit regional business coalitions implementing innovative practices in value-based purchasing and healthcare payment reform.*

Health Care 21 Business Coalition and Memphis Business Group on Health were awarded $37,500 to explore models of payment reform with two employers to align with current state and national efforts in 2018.  

Colorado Business Group on Health was awarded $50,000, to promote advanced primary care by integrating the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) incentives, a national advanced primary care medical home model to strengthen primary care through regionally-based multi-payer payment reform and care delivery transformation. Aligning the commercial and governmental purchasers in this market will help increase quality improvement, according to physician practices across the state.

Florida Health Care Coalition received $50,000, to finish developing and promoting a risk-stratified bundled payment for cardiac care, a project started under a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation grant. This initiative aligns commercial and governmental cardiac purchasing strategies across the Florida market.  

Northeast Business Group on Health received $50,000 to convene employers, health plans and a hospital system to develop a multi-stakeholder pilot intervention to reduce C-sections in the state. Intervention methodologies will include a bundled payment for hospital-based maternity care or a blended case rate for vaginal and C-section deliveries.  

Additional grants will be awarded throughout the year to further support initiatives in areas such as maternity care payment redesign, accountable care organizations, prescription drug value-based purchasing initiatives, and redesigning complex care management to reduce emergency department usage.

*Funding provided by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation


The Purchaser Value Network, an initiative of the Pacific Business Group on Health, aims to accelerate the adoption of high value healthcare delivery and payment models through policy advocacy, education and purchaser engagement. The network seeks to inject purchaser perspectives and innovative best practices into federal and state policy decision making, educate employers about value-based purchasing and advocacy opportunities, and aligns three critical purchaser sectors—private employers, states, and the federal government—around evidence-based practices. For more information, visit

Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO, is a member of the Purchaser Value Network national Advisory Committee.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 7, 2017

RivalHealth CEO, Pete Durand, to Keynote MBGH Annual Awards Luncheon

Pete Durand, CEO of RivalHealth, will keynote MBGH's Annual Awards Luncheon on April 27, 2017 11:30-1:00 at Rhodes College. He will also sit in on our CEO Culture of Health Learning Session at 10:00 that morning. 

Fitness, it's what Pete does. A recovering engineer, MBA and somewhat scarred/successful entrepreneur, he decided that pouring passion into your career makes sense only if you REALLY believe in what you do.

Eight years ago Pete started RivalHealth, a company focused on delivering fully customized and individual exercise/nutrition (=fitness) solutions to individuals, companies, schools and universities. RivalHealth is now in all 50 states, 12 countries and 66 languages.

A successful corporate executive and entrepreneur at companies like Kimberly Clark, Eaton and General Electric, Pete was inspired to start RivalHealth because of the powerful impact proper fitness and nutrition can have on all walks of life. He is an accomplished triathlete, exercise junkie, nutrition nut and NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Pete holds a BS in Industrial Engineering, an MBA and is a former Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Carolinas.

Pete is an inspiration to both employers and employees and his passion shows! You don't want to miss this opportunity to be uplifted by his message and head back to work ready to implement some of his practical, yet impactful, suggestions.

Click here to add the CEO Culture of Health Learning Session on your calendar and here to add the Annual Awards Luncheon. Click download event to get calendar appointment. Registration for both events will start in March.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New Rankings of Clinical Preventive Services Released

HealthPartners Institute and the National Commission on Prevention Priorities (NCPP)  announced the 2017 update of their Ranking of Clinical Preventive Services, which compares 28 of the most cost-effective and life-saving evidence-based interventions.

Three of the most cost-effective and life saving conversations a clinician can have with a patient include:

Advising adults to quit smoking;

Encouraging children and teens to not start smoking; and

Getting vaccines

This effort, a major initiative in the NCPP's Prevention Priorities work, demonstrates the value of evidence in supporting a healthier nation.

Cristie Upshaw Travis, Memphis Business Group on Health CEO, is a commission member of NPCC.

Click here to read more and learn about the NCPP.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, January 9, 2017

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