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UMass Medical School shares $29m grant to aid rural health care

The consulting arm of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester will share a $29 million grant to help rural doctors adapt to changes in the way health care is delivered and paid for.

The grant, shared by the University of Connecticut, will help 5,400 doctors and other clinicians in Massachusetts and Connecticut, including those who work independently and those affiliated with large health systems.

UMass staff will coach the medical practices on how to reduce costs and improve health quality scores -- for example, by reducing unnecessary tests and hospital stays. The cost and quality of care is becoming more important as insurers adopt payment contracts that require health care providers to stay within a budget while keeping patients well.

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Traditionally, doctors have been paid based on the number of patients they see and services they provide.

The UMass effort “is designing and implementing an improvement model that supports clinical practices in the transformation needed for success under alternative payment models,” said Dr. David Polakoff, chief medical officer and associate dean of UMass Medical School’s consulting division, called Commonwealth Medicine. “Our network will focus its efforts on small, independent, rural practices, which have been historically underserved by transformation initiaitives.”

The $29 million grant is one of dozens awarded by the US Department of Health and Human Services for similar efforts across the country, totaling $685 million.


Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.