future of medicine

University of Houston teams up with health care company for value-based care program

The University of Houston in partnership with Humana is now offering a six-course, fully online program focusing on value-based care. Photo via UH.edu

Last week, the University of Houston announced a new online program that will provide specialized value-based care training for providers, academia and other business and industry professionals.

UH teamed up with Kentucky-based health insurance giant, Humana, to create the new Value-based Care Specialization program that will teach the fundamentals and real-world application of value-based care. The flexible, fully-online program is being provided via the collaborative Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute and through global online learning platform Coursera.

"This readily available and affordable option will support those who are working with practices and providers to create better outcomes for their patients," says Tray Cockerell, director of strategy advancement for Humana, in a news release. "It's more important than ever, with the tumult caused by COVID-19, that practices focus on prevention and care coordination.

"We learned in 2020 that providers in value-based care agreements were better positioned to withstand the financial impact the pandemic brought on the health care industry because they had established patient-centered medical practices.," he continues. "Because they could quickly pivot their resources into action to best serve patients, their income was not as drastically affected as those of their fee-for-service peers."

Recent surveys have shown that there is a varied understanding of the definition of value-based care within the health care industry, and now more than ever there is a need to retool the workforce.

"It's essential that those who work to improve the health of their communities speak the same language," says Dr. LeChauncy Woodard, general internist and founding director, Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute at the University of Houston, in the release. "The collaboration on this content assures that everyone, from the physician and nurse, to social workers, pharmacists and claims representatives, as well as consumers of health care understand what it takes to work together. These multisector partnerships help to ensure patients are receiving the best possible care and achieving the best outcomes at the lowest possible cost."

The program consists of six courses and a capstone project, and each course features a few learning modules and a summative assignment. Participants can take any of the six courses independently — receiving a certificate for each — or collectively for the specialization designation, per the release.

"The health care industry is rapidly changing, and high-quality, flexible learning can help support medical professionals preparing for the future," says Betty Vandenbosch, chief content officer at Coursera, in the release. "We are excited to partner with leaders such as the University of Houston and Humana to offer job-relevant content in the emerging area of value-based care."

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Building Houston

 
 

Irving-based ExxonMobil has announced the Houston Ship Channel will be the site of an "innovation zone" for carbon capture and storage. Photo via Business Wire

In a move that would be a gamechanger for Houston, oil and gas giant ExxonMobil envisions creating a $100 billion carbon-capture hub along the Houston Ship Channel.

ExxonMobil foresees the Houston Ship Channel being the site of an "innovation zone" for carbon capture and storage. In a blog post on the ExxonMobil website, Joe Blommaert, the Houston-based president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, says Houston would be "the perfect place" for the project because:

  • The ship channel is home to dozens of refineries and petrochemical plants.
  • The geological formations in the Gulf of Mexico could "safely, securely, and permanently" store tons of carbon emissions under the sea floor, according to the blog post. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the storage capacity along the U.S. Gulf Coast could handle 500 million metric tons of CO2.

Irving-based ExxonMobil, which employs more than 12,000 people in the Houston area, says the project could capture and store about 50 million metric tons of CO2 annually by 2030. By 2040, that number could rise to 100 million metric tons.

"We could create an economy of scale where we can reduce the cost of the carbon dioxide mitigation, create jobs, and reduce the emissions," Blommaert tells the Reuters news service.

In a news release, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner applauds the ExxonMobil plan.

"This proposal by ExxonMobil is the type of bold ambition and investment we will need to meet our climate goals and protect our communities from climate change," Turner says. "ExxonMobil's proposal represents a significant step forward for the energy industry, and I hope it brings more companies to the table to help Houston lead a global energy transition."

Turner notes that the Houston area is home to some of the largest emitters of carbon in the U.S., adding that everyone has "a responsibility and role to play in decarbonization."

Blommaert says the project would require public and private funding, along with "enhanced regulatory and legal frameworks that enable investment and innovation." According to Politico, ExxonMobil wants the federal government to kick in tax breaks or to set carbon-pricing policies to help get the project off the ground.

Politico reports that the Biden administration isn't considering ExxonMobil's idea as it prepares a climate-change package.

"Meanwhile, environmental groups and many Democrats have slammed carbon-capture proposals as a climate strategy, saying the only way to permanently reduce greenhouse gas pollution is a wholesale switch away from fossil fuels," Politico says.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency maintains that carbon capture and storage "are critical for putting energy systems around the world on a sustainable path." Achieving net-zero goals "will be virtually impossible" without carbon capture and storage, the group says.

ExxonMobil announced creation of its Low Carbon Solutions business unit in February as part of its push to invest $3 billion in lower-emission energy initiatives through 2025. Low Carbon Solutions initially will focus on technology for carbon capture and storage. The business unit is exploring opportunities along the Gulf Coast, as well as in Wyoming, Belgium, the Netherlands, Qatar, Scotland, and Singapore.

Last year, ExxonMobil hit the pause button on a $260 million carbon-capture project in Wyoming due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Bloomberg news service.

In a December report, the Global CCS Institute, a think tank, said 65 commercial carbon-capture projects were in various stages of development around the world.

"Climate ambition, including efforts to decarbonize industry, has not been curtailed despite the adversities faced in 2020," Brad Page, CEO of the institute, says in a news release about the report. "We're continuing to see an upward trajectory in the amount of CO2 capture and storage infrastructure that is being developed. One of the largest factors driving this growth is recognition that achieving net-zero emissions is urgent yet unattainable without CO2 reductions from energy-intensive sectors."

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