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Nov. 6, 2009

New England Journal of Medicine: Innovative state program improves medical care and saves millions of dollars

TUMWATER – The newest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine brings national attention to a unique program in Washington state that protects citizens from unproven medical procedures and devices while saving $21 million per year.

Co-authored by Dr. Gary Franklin and Dr. Brian Budenholzer, the article describes how Washington is improving state-funded medical care through its Health Technology Assessment program.

So that the state pays only for medical tools and procedures that are proven to be safe and to work, the Health Technology Assessment Committee of practicing clinicians reviews scientific evidence and then decides what will be covered. The committee’s decisions apply to all state-purchased medical care.

The Legislature created the Health Technology Assessment program in 2006, with support from the Washington State Medical Association. The program savings are estimated at $21 million a year. The state purchases $2.9 billion in health-care annually through the workers’ compensation program, Medicaid, the corrections department, and the state’s Uniform Medical Plan for public employees. Approximately 773,000 Washington citizens are eligible for benefits under these programs.

Participants in the Health Technology Assessment program include the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), the Department of Social and Health Services, the Washington State Health Care Authority and the Department of Corrections.

Gary Franklin is medical director at L&I. Brian Budenholzer is a family physician with Group Health Cooperative in Spokane and chairs the Health Technology Clinical Committee.

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For media information: Barbara A. Davis, 360-902-4216.

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