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Book: My Healthcare Is Killing Me

“A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running.”  Groucho Marx

While I was flying last week, I had the chance to read My Healthcare Is Killing Me.  I could probably think of a few other titles for the book like:

  • Don’t let healthcare bankrupt you
  • Navigating the healthcare billing maze
  • Negotiating to better health
  • The $20 disenfranchisement fee

Those should give you a hint about the topic of the book.  It’s written by Chris Parks, Katrina Welty, and Robert Hendrick who are all part of the founding team at Change Healthcare.  If you’re not familiar with Change Healthcare, you should look at them and others in the transparency space.  (You can look at Jane Sarasohn-Kahn’s series on cost transparency for more information.)

Here’s a few of my notes from the book:

  • Hospitals and doctors view their patient’s bills as Days Sales Outstanding (which is why you can negotiate for prompt payment).
  • 22% of people have been contacted by a collection service for a medical bill
  • 60% of consumers that asked for discount on a medical bill were successful
  • The bill is NOT what the provider will (or expects) to get paid…It is the most that they will get paid
  • The chance of getting the right diagnosis and treatment on the first visit is 50% (scary)

The book has an interesting analogy from Patsy Kelly comparing healthcare to a restaurant:

“In healthcare, the patient does not order the service or have the primary responsibility for payment.  Additionally, the person who pays for the service does not order it or consume it, and the person who orders it does not pay for it or consume it.”

Another quote from Unity Stoakes was:

“We must arm ourselves with knowledge, wisdom and information.  Demand transparency in pricing by researching alternatives.  Negotiate!  Take control of your own healthcare now.  The more you know, the more power you have.”

The authors do a good job of simplifying down some of the complexities of the healthcare payment system.  Some things have changed with health reform, but the fundamentals are the same.  For someone taking on a large, complex condition which is likely to result in lots of costs, its worth reading.  For someone trying to change healthcare and understand the fundamentals, it’s also a great quick read which you can then follow-up on to see how this became the foundation for Change Healthcare. 

 

Interview With David Tripi – Janssen Healthcare Innovation

A few weeks ago, as a follow-up to my discussion with Aetna about CarePass, I had a chance to talk with David Tripi from Janssen Healthcare Innovation about their new solution.

David is a founding partner at Janssen Healthcare Innovation where he is part of a multi-disciplinary group working toward the goal of propelling the company to become the leader in the healthcare solution business. Prior to the launch of the JHI team, David was with Johnson & Johnson for over 15 years.

“Janssen Healthcare Innovation (JHI), an entrepreneurial group within Janssen Research & Development, LLC, develops cutting-edge health solutions designed to modernize healthcare delivery, improve patient outcomes, and create a healthier world.”  This is a 3-year old effort by Johnson & Johnson focused on integrated care businesses and enabling technologies.  To support those, medication adherence and mobile are key areas.

One thing that David stressed is that they are platform agnostic and that their Care4Today Mobile Health Manager works as both an app and via SMS.  Therefore, the 50% of the US that doesn’t have a smartphone can still use it.  Additionally, it’s not a product or drug specific solution.  You can use this even if you don’t use a J&J product.

Care4Today Care4Family

Adherence is a huge challenge that everyone is aligned around, and everyone is trying to find solutions – plan design, incentives, apps, consumer engagement, framing, behavioral economics, and smart pill bottles (to name a few).  So, what’s part of the Care4Today solution?

  • It has reminders for Rx and OTC products.
  • It has a refill reminder process which they hope to automate in the future.
  • It has a two way secure messaging platform.
  • It has images of over 20,000 pills.
  • And, they also included a caregiver strategy and an incentive option.

The idea of social health is important.  We’ve talked about this for weight loss and smoking.  But, with the expanded role of caregivers, can they play a key role in improving adherence?  For example, if you respond that you didn’t take your pill and the response goes to your caregiver, will they call you?  Will that follow-up motivate you?  (Care4Family)  Some prior research says yes.

A broader question might be about how to pick a caregiver or how to define it.  Should it just be your family?  Should it include your physician?  What if you don’t have a support system?  Could the healthcare companies or advocacy companies give you a “professional caregiver”?  What about an avatar as a caregiver?

I asked about the incentive program that they included (Care4Charity).  David pointed out that using apps isn’t fun (at least for most people) so they wanted to give a slight motivation.  I questioned him on why $0.05 (which is the daily donation if you check in and take your meds).  They did lots of research which showed that the amount didn’t really matter.  So, this is an experiment to see if this extra feature of the program will nudge people to be more adherent.  Or ultimately, it would be great to segment the population to understand who it was motivating for and for whom it didn’t matter.

One of the things I wondered about was how they were going to promote the app.  Obviously, relationships with companies like Aetna and their CarePass program are one way, but with the tens of thousands of apps out there, how will people find it?  David told me that they were going to initially focus on social media – Facebook, Twitter, and mommy blogs – to drive awareness.  Next, they’re going to use pharma reps to discuss the app with physicians and pilot this strategy in HIV.

At the time, they’d had over 55,000 consumer downloads, and they’ve already gotten some initial feedback from physicians that like the fact that they’re offering solutions that aren’t branded to a specific pharmaceutical product.  Some of those physicians are already offering it to patients.  They expect this will be a big driver.  They are now starting to talk with retail pharmacies about how to encourage consumer use.  While my initial reaction was that this would be “competitive” with the Walgreens and CVS Caremark mobile solutions, they see collaboration opportunities especially with Walgreens and their open API.

Of course, I wondered about how the app was being used, but they don’t collect PII (personally identifiable information).  In the future, they plan to offer an option for patients to opt-in to share information and create a clinic dashboard for physicians to see which patients are using it and providing them with data.  And, with a new collaboration with HealthNet, consumers will be logging into the app with their HealthNet ID which will allow them to link up PII and PHI (protected health information).

So, what’s next…

  • They’ve launched in the US and France.  They’re expanding into the UK and other countries next.
  • They’re adding Spanish in Q1-2014.
  • They’ve just completed some human factor testing which will drive some UI and UX changes.
  • They’re going to do some testing and look at results with whatever data is available.
  • They’re going to try to partner with as many people as possible.

Will it move the needle around adherence?  It’s still too early to tell.  But, it’s great to see pharma testing new strategies and working in new ways with payers to try to address this challenge.

Interview With IMS Health About AppScript – #mHealth13

“Today, there is growing recognition of mobile health’s potential to transform healthcare – to advance doctor/patient engagement and empower consumers to better monitor and manage their own health,” said Stefan Linn, senior vice president, Strategy & Global Pharma Solutions, IMS Health. “That potential can only be realized through a systematic evaluation of the clinical benefits of healthcare apps, clear professional guidelines around their use, and effective integration of apps with other aspects of patient care. With these game-changing solutions, IMS Health is establishing an intelligent, secure infrastructure for mobile health, backed by our market-leading real-world evidence capabilities and the most advanced technology platform in healthcare.”

Most of you that read the blog on a regular basis know that I was really intrigued by the idea of “prescribing information and technology” early on.  With 90,000 different health related applications, the question is which ones should you use and how should you find out about them.  Happtique started to get into this space earlier in the year, and I spoke with them at length about integrating this into a care management platform.

I was really surprised to learn that IMS Health which I think of as a healthcare data company was jumping into this space.

IMS Health is the world’s leading information, services and technology company dedicated to making healthcare perform better.

By applying cutting-edge analytics and proprietary application suites hosted on the IMS One intelligent cloud, the company connects more than 10 petabytes of complex healthcare data on diseases, treatments, costs and outcomes to enable our clients to run their operations more efficiently.

Drawing on information from 100,000 suppliers, and on insights from more than 40 billion healthcare transactions processed annually, IMS Health’s 9,000+ expert resources drive results for over 5,000 healthcare clients globally.

Customers include pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer health manufacturers and distributors, providers, payers, government agencies, policymakers, researchers and the financial community.

I talked with Matt Tindall who’s their Director of Consumer Solutions about this a few days ago (but was waiting for their press release to be out and their presentation at the mHealth Summit – which I am very disappointed to be missing for the second year in a row.)

I also read their press release about their new solutions.

IMS Health today announced the immediate availability of AppScriptTM, an mHealth app prescribing solution designed to help healthcare providers and health plans create proprietary formularies based on an objective assessment of healthcare app functionality and value. The company also announced the launch of AppNucleusTM, its customizable, cloud-based hosting platform that will enable developers to build secure, industry-compliant healthcare apps at very low cost. Both new products will leverage IMS Health’s comprehensive data on diseases, treatments, costs and outcomes.

The AppScript Software-as-a-Service solution classifies and evaluates more than 40,000 mobile healthcare apps currently available for download on iOS and Android platforms, categorized by stage of the patient journey. Each app is assessed using the company’s proprietary IMS Health AppScore, which ranks apps based on functionality, peer and patient reviews, certifications, and their potential to improve outcomes and lower the cost of care. As part of wellness, prevention and treatment regimens, physicians can organize these apps into formularies based on their specific patient population and practice preferences. In addition, AppScript enables them to securely prescribe, reconcile and track app use by patients from any mobile interface.

AppNucleus is the company’s innovative healthcare app development and hosting platform that makes it easier for app developers to offer HIPAA- and HITECH-compliant solutions. The platform, compatible with all mobile operating systems, uniquely integrates IMS Health information and analytics at every stage of app development to support design and performance evaluation decisions. AppNucleus features a suite of plug-and-play solutions, enabling patients and physicians to exchange health information on mobile devices via a secure, encrypted channel to protect patient information. It also offers app developers a highly economical way to build security into their apps and protect patient information.

Here’s my notes and key observations:

First off, I quickly learned that I missed a very interesting report that they put out in October.  This report titled “Patient Apps for Improved Healthcare: From Novelty to Mainstream” has lots of great information which I share below.  It also is essentially the business case for these new solutions.

In talking with Matt, he shared with me how IMS Health, a 60 year old company, is using their consumer solutions group to transform how people learn and manage their health.  He talked about how they want to make mobile safer, more effective, and easier.

I really wanted to understand how they determined where to look given all the apps out there.  A lot of it is in the report, but he shared how they looked at 40,000 apps and used over 25 different criteria (such as type of information, functionality, communication process used) and peer reviews to determine a shorter list to focus on.

We discussion how the short-term success of mobile is engagement, but the long-term success will have to be tied to clinical outcomes.

He walked me through the process for getting the app prescribed:

  • The physician would be using a white labeled platform (provided by their health plan, provider group, others).
  • They would select an app based on a curated formulary.
  • The patient would get a secure e-mail or a text message with a link to the app.
  • The patient would follow the link and enter a proprietary passcode.
  • This would take them into the app store.
  • They can then download the app.

This process will allow them to track “intent to download” and then whether they did download.  The key next step will be partnering with the apps and getting the patient consent to pull data back to know not only if it was downloaded but whether it was used and how often.  And, ultimately, this will have to be integrated with the provider platform.

We talked a little bit about why IMS and he talked about their knowledge of the prescriber and ability to recommend apps for their formulary based on their patterns of prescribing.

Ultimately, I think they may be in a good position to succeed here.  I think there are several key questions:

  • How are the apps evaluated?  Do clinicians evaluate the clinical algorithms?
  • How do you determine the financial viability of the apps?  Are they one-hit wonders or shiny objects or will they be around for years.
  • How do you modify the “formulary” based on user and prescriber feedback?
  • How do you integrate the tools into the physician’s workflow?
  • How comfortable will the physicians have to be with each app?  (Won’t the users have questions for them and will that be a barrier?)

From their report on healthcare apps:

  • Only about ½ of the 40,000 apps they looked at justified a deeper dive.

IMS Consumer App Functionality

  • They categorized the apps by:
    • Inform: Provide information in a variety of formats (text, photo, video)
    • Instruct: Provide instructions to the user
    • Record: Capture user entered data
    • Display: Graphically display user entered data/output user entered data
    • Guide: Provide guidance based on user entered information, and may further offer a diagnosis, or recommend a consultation with a physician/a course of treatment
    • Remind/Alert: Provide reminders to the user
    • Communicate: Provide communication with HCP/patients and/or provide links to social networks

They also looked at apps by therapy area and by which part of the patient journey they focus on.

IMS Apps By Patient Journey

“There’s a group [of patients] who each have several medical problems and often they have several specialists, all making recommendations. It’s often overwhelming for the patient and for the caregiver. They get overwhelmed by the number of pills and the number of recommendations that they have been given, so I feel that if everybody starts prescribing apps it could quickly lead to app overload”

Leslie Kernisan – Geriatrician and caregiver educator

IMS MD Hurdles To Apps IMS App Maturity Model

 

Aetna’s Metabolic Syndrome Innovation Program

I’ve been closely following Aetna’s innovation for the past few years (see post on CarePass and Healthagen).  I had the chance last week to speak with Adam Scott who is the Managing Director of the Aetna Innovation Labs.

Here’s Adam’s bio:

Adam Scott is a Managing Director within Aetna’s Innovation Labs, a group developing novel clinical, platform, and engagement solutions for the next generation of healthcare.  Mr. Scott specializes in clinical innovation, with a focus on oncology, genetics, and metabolic syndrome, as well as “big data” analysis.  His work is aimed at conceptualizing and developing products and services that better predict illness, enable evidence-based care and lengthen healthy lives.  Prior to joining Aetna, Mr. Scott’s 15-year healthcare career has included management roles in consulting, hospital administration, and most recently health information technology.  Mr. Scott holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.  Mr. Scott resides with his family in Needham, MA, where he actively serves as a director on community boards.

This is one of my favorite topics – Metabolic Syndrome (although yes…I still hate the term).

Definition of Metabolic Syndrome from the NIH:

Metabolic (met-ah-BOL-ik) syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetesand stroke.

The term “metabolic” refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body’s normal functioning. Risk factors are traits, conditions, or habits that increase your chance of developing a disease.

The Aetna Innovation Labs are focused on bringing concepts to scale and staying 2-3 years ahead of the market.  They are looking to rapidly pilot ideas with a focus on collecting evidence.  In general, Adam described their work as focused on clinical, platform, and engagement ideas.  They are trying to collaborate with cutting edge companies that they think they can help to scale quickly.  It’s pretty exciting!

As stated in their press release about this new effort:

“During the course of the last year, Aetna Innovation Labs has successfully piloted an analysis of Metabolic Syndrome and the creation of predictive models for Metabolic Syndrome. This prior work showed significantly increased risk of both diabetes and heart disease for those living with Metabolic Syndrome,” said Michael Palmer, vice president of Innovation at Aetna. “With this new pilot program with Newtopia, we are aiming to help members address Metabolic Syndrome through specific actions, before more serious chronic conditions arise, like diabetes and heart disease.”

Aetna selected Newtopia for this effort for their unique approach toward achieving a healthy weight with an integrative and personalized focus on nutrition, exercise, and behavioral well-being. Newtopia’s program begins with a “genetic reveal,” leveraging a saliva-based genetic test to stratify participants with respect to three genes associated with obesity, appetite, and behavior. Based on the results of this test and an online assessment, Newtopia matches each participant to a plan and coach trained to focus on the member’s specific genetic, personality and motivation profile. Through online coaching sessions, Newtopia will help members achieve results related to maintaining a healthy weight and Metabolic Syndrome risk-reduction, which will be measured by changes from a pre- and post-program biometric screening.

“Newtopia’s mission is to inspire individuals to make the lifestyle choices that can help them build healthy lives,” said Jeffrey Ruby, Founder and CEO of Newtopia.

If you’ve been following the story, this builds upon their project with GNS to develop a predictive algorithm to identify people at risk for Metabolic Syndrome.  As you may or may not know, there are 5 first factors for Metabolic Syndrome (text from NIH):

The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You can have any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

  • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.” Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.

  • A high triglyceride level (or you’re on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.

  • A low HDL cholesterol level (or you’re on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.

  • High blood pressure (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup.

  • High fasting blood sugar (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

So, what exactly are they doing now.  That was the focus of my discussion with Adam.

  1. They are running data through the GNS predictive model.
  2. They are inviting people to participate in the program.  (initially focusing on 500 Aetna employees for the pilot)
  3. The employees that choose to participate then get a 3 SNP (snip) test done focused on the genes that are associated with body fat, appetite, and eating behavior.  (Maybe they should get a few of us bloggers into the pilot – hint.)  This is done through Newtopia, and the program is GINA compliant since the genetic data is never received by Aetna or the employer.
  4. The genetic analysis puts the consumer into one of eight categories.
  5. Based on the category, the consumer is matched with a personal coach who is going to help them with a care plan, an exercise plan, and a nutrition plan.  The coaching also includes a lifestyle assessment to identify the best ways to engage them and is supported by mobile and web technology.
    newtopia
  6. The Newtopia coaches are then using the Pebble technology to track activity and upload that into a portal and into their system.

We then talked about several of the other activities that are important for this to be successful:

  • Use of Motivational Interviewing or other evidence-based approaches for engagement.  In this case, Newtopia is providing the coaching using a proprietary approach based on the genetic data.
  • Providing offline support.  In this case, Aetna has partnered with Duke to provide the Metabolic Health in Small Bytes program which he described as a virtual coaching program.

Metabolic Health in Small Bytes uses a virtual classroom technology, where participants can interact with each other and the instructor. All of the program instructors have completed a program outlined by lead program developer Ruth Wolever, PhD from Duke Diet and Fitness Center and Duke Integrative Medicine. Using mindfulness techniques from the program, participants learn practices they can use to combat the root causes of obesity. The program’s goal is to help participants better understand their emotional state, enhance their knowledge of how to improve exercise and nutrition, and access internal motivation to do so. (source)

We also talked about employer feedback and willingness to adopt solutions like this.  From my conversations, I think employers are hesitant to go down this path.  Metabolic Syndrome affects about 23.7% of the population.  That is a large group of consumers to engage, and pending final ROI analysis will likely scare some employers off.

Adam told me that they’ve talked with 30 of their large clients, consultants, and mid-market clients.  While we didn’t get into specifics, we talked about all the reasons they should do this:

  • People with Metabolic Syndrome are 1.6x more expensive
  • People with Metabolic Syndrome are 5x more likely to get diabetes
  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism

This ties well with my argument that wellness programs aren’t just about ROI.

Obviously, one of the next steps will be figuring out how this integrates into their other existing programs to address the overall consumer experience so that it’s not just another cool (but disconnected) program.  And, of course, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program to get clients and consumers to participate.

Two quotes I’ll leave you with on why this is difficult (but yet exciting to try to solve):

“The harsh reality is that scientists know as much about curing obesity as they do about curing the common cold: not much. But at least they admit their limitations in treating the cold. Many doctors seem to think the cure for obesity exists, but obese patients just don’t comply. Doctors often have less respect for obese patients, believing if they would just diet and exercise they’d be slim and healthy.” (source)

Thirty percent of those in the “overweight” class believed they were actually normal size, while 70% of those classified as obese felt they were simply overweight. Among the heaviest group, the morbidly obese, almost 60% pegged themselves as obese, while another 39% considered themselves merely overweight. (source)

Retail Pharmacy As The Digital Medical Home

I’m excited to deliver my presentation on the topic about the retail pharmacy as the digital medical home tomorrow at the intersection of three CBI conferences – Point of Care Summit, Retail Strategy Summit, and Strategic Distribution Planning for Specialty Products.  As always, I’m sharing my slides below via SlideShare, and I’ll set up some tweets to give you the cliff note version.

The key here IMHO is that retailers are best positioned to take advantage of this, but the key points are:

  1. Why retail pharmacy?
    • Retail pharmacies have trust from consumers.
    • Easily accessible.
    • Pharmacy is the most used benefit.
  2. What’s the challenge?
    • Successfully engaging the consumer.
    • Integration with the provider so there are process oriented care gaps.
    • Data.
  3. What needs to happen?
    • Focus on the golden moments for engagement.
    • Systemic model for engagement – e.g., Prochaska.
    • Tools and skills to motivate the consumer – e.g., Motivational Interviewing, Incentives.

Walgreens and Express Scripts Collaborate To Compete With CVS Caremark

The recent press from Walgreens and Express Scripts is interesting on several fronts:

  1. We worked for years even when I was there to try to figure out a win-win around 90-day with Walgreens.  It wasn’t easy.
  2. Walgreens and Express Scripts have a “colorful” past regarding working together.
  3. This is definitely in the best interest of the patient which we don’t always see everyday in healthcare.
  4. This is a definite recognition of the success of the Maintenance Choice program by CVS Caremark.

Here’s some language from the Walgreens’ press release.

Under the new option, plan sponsors that choose to include Walgreens as part of the Smart90 program for their pharmacy benefit will provide their members who have chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, the choice to receive 90-day supplies of maintenance medications through home delivery from Express Scripts or directly at a Walgreens retail pharmacy for the same copayment. Pending adoption by benefit plan sponsors, plan members could access Smart90 Walgreens as early as January 2014.

“Working together with Express Scripts, Smart90 Walgreens will offer more pharmacy locations and better member access coverage than any single retail chain 90-day maintenance medication solution in the nation,” said Kermit Crawford, President of Walgreens Pharmacy, Health and Wellness. “Through Smart90 Walgreens, our more than 8,000 Walgreens retail pharmacies will provide plan sponsors with cost savings and will offer their members safe, easy and convenient access to important in-person pharmacist consultations and a wide-range of health and wellness services that can further improve medication adherence and lower overall healthcare costs.”

“Members will be able to continue to receive the safety, convenience, cost savings and care offered from Express Scripts home delivery pharmacies,” said Glen Stettin, M.D., senior vice president of research and new solutions at Express Scripts. “Our data are clear: 90-day prescriptions delivered to a member’s home improve medication adherence and health outcomes, lower the cost of care and add convenience when compared to 30-day prescriptions. Over the past few years, our Smart90 program has driven more 90-day prescriptions for participating clients, and we’re pleased to now offer this additional option.”

Obese Scouts (And Leaders) Told To Stay Away

Did you catch the story the other day that kids and adults that had a BMI of over 40 were told they couldn’t come to the annual Boy Scout Jamboree? And those that had a BMI of between 32 and 39.9 had to submit documentation that they could attend.

What do you think about that?

If you look at the adult US statistics, this would represent about 30%+ of the population. (United HealthGroup report: “United States of Diabetes“)

This is one story where I’m sure there’s a lot that we’d want to know. In Time, they talk about the fact that they published the restrictions two years ago. This would have allowed people time to improve their BMI. But, jumping from 40 to 31 might be too big of a jump in two years for some people to do in a healthy way.

If I were developing this type of program for a company, I’d expect to answer these questions:

  • What did you do to support the scouts and leaders in losing weight? Did you give them a coach? A registered dietician?
  • Did you create a culture of health? What types of foods are at boy scout meetings?
  • Is there a reasonable alternative for the obese scouts to get a similar experience if clinically appropriate?

Obviously, this isn’t a work environment so the rules are different. On the one hand, congrats to them for being brave enough to take this topic on and try to encourage scouts and leaders to have a healthy weight. On the other hand, they need to make sure they do this in a way that doesn’t shame these people and need to make sure they support their weight loss.

But, don’t be fooled. The world is going to continue to move this way. Obesity is too big of a driver of healthcare costs and other presenteeism and absenteeism impacts.

Just look at Japan…(source)

Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.

Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.

To reach its goals of shrinking the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years, the government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. The country’s Ministry of Health argues that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check.

CarePass, Another Aetna Innovation – What’s Your Healthy?

Have you seen the new “What’s Your Healthy?” campaign?  Here’s a few shots.

BTW – My healthy is keeping up with my kids in sports and moving down a belt notch.

Image

Image

As many of you know, I consider Walgreens and Aetna to be two of the most innovative healthcare companies today (out of the big, established players).  [And, full disclosure, I own stock in both.]  I’ve talked about Walgreens (see Walgreens post on innovation) several times along with Aetna (see Healthagen post).

That being said, the new campaign along with the press caught my attention.  I was glad that I was able to get some time with Martha Wofford who is the VP and head of CarePass.

“We want to make it easier for everyone to engage in their health and hopefully shift from thinking about health care to taking care of their health,” said Martha L. Wofford, vice president and head of CarePass from Aetna. “CarePass helps consumers connect different pieces of health data to create a fuller, more personalized picture of their health.”

I spent some time talking with Martha and team about their initiative.  Here’s some highlights that stuck out to me.

  • There use of goals was really easy and intuitive.  If you log-in to the CarePass site and get started, you have 3 options or you can create your own (see below).  We spent some time talking about the importance of making these relevant to the individual not focusing on “healthcare goals” like adherence or lowering you blood sugar.  Most of us don’t think that way.  As they described them, they picked “motivation centric goals”.
    Aetna Carepass goals
  • I was also really interested in how they picked which apps to recommend.  There are so many out there, and many of you know that I’ve been fascinated by the concept of curating apps or prescribing apps to people.  They had a nice, simple process:
    • Which apps are most popular?
    • Does the app have “breadth”?  (i.e., national applicability)
    • They also spent more time pre-screening apps which collect PHI to understand them before listing them on the site.
    • They’re using the consumers goals to recommend apps to them.
  • The other big question I had is why do this.  It certain helps build the Aetna brand over time, but there’s not direct path to revenue (that I see).  They described their efforts as “supporting the healthcare journey” through connected data.  Ultimately, it’s about making Aetna a preferred consumer brand which may be very relevant in the individual market and exchange world in the not too distant future.
  • I like the idea of companies being “app agnostic” as I call it.  Walgreens is doing this.  Aetna is doing this.  I plan on doing this in my day job.  This allows the consumer to pick the app that works for them and as long as the data is normalized (or can be normalized) and the app provides some type of open API (application programming interface) it’s much easier to integrate with.
  • We talked a little about what’s next.  Metabolic syndrome is something they brought up.  This is something that Aetna’s been talking about in several forums for a while now.  They launched a new offering earlier this year.  (I still hate the term metabolic syndrome from a consumer perspective, but it seems to be sticking in the healthcare community.)
  • We also talked about new goals to come around smoking cessation, medication, and stress.
  • Another discussion I have with lots of people is how this data gets used.  (see a good article about what’s next for QuantifiedSelf)  I personally really want to see my data pushed to the care management team to monitor and send me information.  (Eat this not that type of suggestions)  Martha talked about how the data belongs to the member and they have to choose to push it to the coach.  She also talked about how they’re integrating with their PHR (Personal Health Record) first and then looking at others.  (see old interview with ActiveHealth)

In summary, CarePass is a nice additional to your #QuantifiedSelf toolkit.  As you can see from the screenshots below, the GUI (graphic user interface) is simple.  It’s well designed.  Integration with your apps is easy.  It provides you with goals and motivation.  They help you navigate the app world.  And, it helps you bring together data from multiple sources.  Once it can pull in all my Rx, medical and lab data along with my HRA data and my device data, it will be really cool!  But, I know that I’m a minority in that effort.  I’m really intrigued by the lifestyle questions they ask and wonder how those will ultimately personalize my experience.

Carepass lifestyle questions Carepass dashboard

So, what apps do they share?  Here’s a screenshot, but you really should log-in and try the site and see the full list.  It’s simple and worth the effort.

Carepass apps

As an added bonus, I’m adding a presentation I gave with Aetna at the Care Continuum Alliance two years ago.  I was searching for my past interviews with Aetna people and found this online so I added it to SlideShare and put it here.

How Walgreens Became One Of The More Innovative Healthcare Companies

While we are generally a society focused on innovation from start-ups (and now all the incubators like Rock Health), there are a few big companies that are able to innovate while growing.  That’s not always easy and companies often need some catalyst to make this happen.  Right now, there are four established healthcare companies that I’m watching closely to track their innovation – Kaiser, United/Optum, Aetna, and Walgreens.  (Walgreens has made the Fast Company innovation list 3 of the past 4 years.)

I think Walgreens is really interesting, and they did have a great catalyst to force them to really dig deep to think about how do we survive in a big PBM world.  It seems like the answer has been to become a healthcare company not just a pharmacy (as they say “at the corner of Happy and Healthy”) while simultaneously continuing to grow in the specialty pharmacy and store area.

Let’s look at some of the changes they’ve made over the past 5 years.  Looking back, I would have described them as an organic growth company with a “not-invented-here” attitude.  Now, I think they have leapfrogged the marketplace to become a model for innovation.

  1. They sold their PBM.
  2. They re-designed their stores.
  3. They got the pharmacist out talking to people.
  4. They got more involved with medication therapy management.
  5. They increased their focus on immunizations increasing the pharmacists role.
  6. They formed an innovation team.
  7. They invested heavily in digital and drove out several mobile solutions including innovations like using the QR code and scanning technology to order refills.
  8. They’ve reached out to partner with companies like Johns Hopkins and the Joslin Diabetes Centers.
  9. They increased their focus on publications out of their research group to showcase what they could do.
  10. They started looking at the role the pharmacy could play and the medications played in readmissions.
  11. They partnered with Boots to become a much more global company.
  12. They offered daily testing for key numbers people should know like A1c and blood pressure even at stores without a clinic.
  13. They created an incentive program and opened it up to link to devices like FitBit.
  14. They partnered with The Biggest Loser.
  15. They increased their focus on the employer including getting into the on-site clinic space.
  16. They created 3 Accountable Care Organizations.
  17. They partnered with Novartis to get into the clinical trials space.
  18. They developed APIs to open their system up to developers and other health IT companies.
  19. They formed a big collaboration with AmerisourceBergen which if you read the quote from Greg Wasson isn’t just about supply chain.

    “Today’s announcement marks another step forward in establishing an unprecedented and efficient global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing network, and achieving our vision of becoming the first choice in health and daily living for everyone in America and beyond,” said Gregory Wasson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Walgreens. “We are excited to be expanding our existing relationship with AmerisourceBergen to a 10-year strategic long-term contract, representing another transformational step in the pharmaceutical supply chain. We believe this relationship will create a wide range of opportunities and innovations in the rapidly changing U.S. and global health care environment that we expect will benefit all of our stakeholders.”

  20. They jumped into the retail clinic space and have continued to grow that footprint physically and around the services they offer with the latest jump being to really address the access issue and help with chronic conditions not just acute problems.

With this service expansion, Take Care Clinics now provide the most comprehensive service offering within the retail clinic industry, and can play an even more valuable role in helping patients get, stay and live well,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kang, senior vice president of health and wellness services and solutions, Walgreens. “Through greater access to services and a broader focus on disease prevention and chronic condition management, our clinics can connect and work with physicians and other providers to better help support the increasing demands on our health care system today.” (from Press Release)

This is something for the whole pharmacy (PBM, pharma, retail, mail, specialty) industry to watch and model as I talked about in my PBMI presentation (which I’m giving again tomorrow in Chicago).  It reminds me of some of the discussions by pharma leaders about the need to go “beyond the pill”.

 

How Aetna’s Pivoting With Healthagen – #whcc13

Do you know the term “pivot“? It’s all the rage now in terms of describing how companies continue to evolve their models with this rapidly changing business environment.

Of course, Aetna is one of the big healthcare players in the US. They’re not going to abandon a model that’s been working for well over 100 years. But, thanks to some great leadership from people like Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, they’ve created a new business unit called Healthagen (building on the company they bought known mostly for iTriage). The screen shot says it all.

I got the privilege to sit down with Dr. Charles Saunders who runs Healthagen at the World Healthcare Congress in DC (#whcc13).

Charles E. Saunders, M.D., is responsible for leading the strategic diversification of Healthagen’s products, services and global opportunities. He focuses on identifying new growth opportunities and developing market strategies that can help Healthagen and Aetna profitably manage quality and cost for its customers.

Prior to joining Healthagen, Dr. Saunders served as executive in residence at Warburg Pincus, one of the world’s largest and oldest private equity firms. He has held a number of other significant leadership positions during his career, including CEO of Broadlane, Inc., President of EDS Healthcare Global Industry Solutions; Chief Medical Officer of Healtheon / WebMD; Principal of A.T. Kearney; and Executive Director of San Francisco General Hospital Managed Care Programs.

Dr. Saunders received a B.S. in biological sciences from the University of Southern California and an M.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine and has served on the faculty of several universities, including the University of California, San Francisco; Vanderbilt University; and University of Colorado.

I also got to hear him speak right before I talked to him. (As a side note, he is a great presenter which is something that I really respect in a world of people who present too many slides, use notes, talk to the screen, and can lose you quickly.)

He hit on several key themes in his presentation that we then discussed further face-to-face:

  1. Social Caregiver Model
  2. Game Theory
  3. Digital / Mobile

One of my first questions was to really understand Healthagen and what it was set up to do. (As you can see from the screen shot below, they’re doing lots of things in this group.)

He boiled it down nicely to three things:

  1. Physician (provider) enablement
  2. Patient engagement
  3. Population Health Management IT

Our next discussion was really around why and how to create and innovate within a large company like Aetna. He reiterated what I believed that Mark Bertolini championed this new vision along with several of the other senior leaders. But, I think the key was that they recognized that issue of trying to do that internally and were willing to form a group to be different. To minimize bureaucracy for this group. And, to leverage their capital and assets to support this group. Not many big companies do this well. My impression is that Aetna is and will continue to be successful here. (Full disclosure – I own a minor number of Aetna shares and have believed this since I bought them about a year ago.)

Of course, in today’s market, there’s an explosion of innovation with questions on the short-term and long-term ROI of many initiatives and start-ups. With that in mind, Dr. Saunders pointed out that they don’t want to own everything. They want to create a plug and play platform of enablement. iTriage is a great example of this where they brought in a mobile technology with 2M downloads in 2011 and now have over 9.5M downloads of the tool (on top of massive increases in functionality and integration). You can download it here – https://itunes.apple.com/app/itriage-health-doctor-symptoms/id304696939?mt=8.

Certainly, one concern others have historically had in this space was how to own solutions and sell them to their peers (competitors). Dr. Saunders talked about their ability to do this with ActiveHealth and a perception that the industry is over that issue as long as Aetna can continue to demonstrate that they are good stewards of the data and are keeping the appropriate firewalls in place.

We wrapped up the conversation talking about the social caregiver and game theory. I think both are important in our mHealth / digital world. With the sandwhich generation, this is increasingly important. That is where Aetna is focusing…enablement of the caregiver for infants and seniors leveraging a social approach. This reminds me of their recent announcement of a pilot with PatientsLikeMe. We also talked about game theory and the role of that in healthcare which is a common theme from my discussion with Keas this morning and a theme from the overall conference.

It should be interesting to watch Dr. Saunders and his team and how Aetna continues to pivot.

Key Topics At #WHCC13 In DC

I’m at the World Healthcare Congress (WHCC13) in Washington DC this week.  This has always been one of the top 5 events for me to try to come to every year (admitting that there are a few like TED that I haven’t attended due to budget yet).

It’s interesting  how trends start to flow within a conference and how the trends change year to year.  This year, the key themes that I continue to hear are (in no order):

  • Engagement is critical.  Between MD and Patient.  Between social network / influencers and member.  Between employee and employer.
  • We have to get past the barriers to health enablement (i.e., legacy IT systems) and make change happen.
  • Game theory can help improve engagement.
  • Mobile tools are important.
  • Data integration has to happen and employers are doing it themselves.
  • Biometrics are critical path.
  • We can’t solve healthcare if we don’t solve health.  The community.  Our food choices.  Work / life balance.  (I would add sleep and stress.)
  • Rapid innovation.
  • Reform isn’t going to be easy on the employer or the employee.

But, since Twitter is my new note taker…here’s a few sets of tweets for you.

#whcc13 tweets whcc13 tweets3 whcc13 tweets2 whcc13 tweets1

#WHCC13 Interview: Content + Community + Competition = Keas

I had the opportunity to sit down this morning with Josh Stevens who is the CEO of Keas.

“Keas is the most engaging wellness program in the workplace. Keas promotes healthy behavior and teamwork with interactive media that delivers relevant, individualized content to hundreds of thousands of employees. Keas has a proven track record of supporting corporate HR in increasing retention, productivity, teamwork, collaboration, and competitiveness. By rewarding people for achieving simple exercise and nutrition goals, employee health is improved and overall healthcare costs are decreased.”

He is a passionate believer in using fun and social to drive change in healthcare with a focus initially on wellness and then moving upstream to other challenges like disease management.

As CEO of Keas, the market leader in corporate wellness, Stevens is responsible for leading the development and market adoption of the company’s breakthrough wellness platform and applications.

Stevens has over 20 years of experience in product, sales, marketing, and is a recognized leader in driving high-value product experiences that deliver customer delight and investor’s valuation growth.

Prior to Keas, Stevens was Vice President of e-commerce at YouSendIt, Senior Vice President of strategy and business development at TicketsNow, and General Manager of e-commerce at AOL. Prior to his GM role at AOL, Stevens held a variety of leadership positions in business development, product marketing, product management, and corporate strategy.

Some of you may have seen Keas over the years. They were founded by Adam Bosworth who was responsible for Google Health at one point. They’ve gone through a few evolutions, but it seems like they’ve hit on a working model leveraging several principles that we discussed:

  1. Being intellectually nimble
  2. Developing holistic and integrated solutions
  3. Using content, community, and competition to drive engagement
  4. Building social networks around health
  5. Integrating into the consumer’s experience to be seamless (e.g., single sign on)
  6. Recognizing that change is dependent upon corporate culture changing also
  7. BYOD (bring your own device) meaning that they can integrate with anyone with an open API
  8. Realizing that while some people (like me) might want to focus on data in a Quantified Self manner, we’re only 15% of the population

While Josh isn’t a healthcare native, that seems like a good thing. I’ve seen a lot of people try to come into healthcare from the outside. Most of them fail because they get overwhelmed by the regulation or frustrated by the challenges or stick too much to what they personally think should work. In the hour we spent together, I didn’t get that sense.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Keas and trying out the tools myself. One of the most fascinating points was that they get people to engage 15 times per month. I told him that that was a ridiculous number in healthcare. We went on to talk about his hiring a team from the gaming industry and that they were used to being tied to repeat visits not simply getting people to download the tool.

IMHO – if you could get 50% of people to engage twice a month with a tool (and sustain that engagement rate), you would be a hero.

As I’ve talked about in my posts about CVS and as I tweeted earlier today from the conference, companies need to engage the worker at the workplace to transform healthcare. Josh gets that key point.

“Today’s employees spend most of their daily lives at work and companies can have a huge impact on improving overall health by creating a culture of wellness at work. That culture starts with Keas’ fun, engaging platform, which helps employees become healthier, more productive and more engaged at work, and in life.” (press release)

CVS Caremark Adherence Study – Is Facebook The Solution To Adherence?

A new study funded by CVS Caremark as part of their ongoing research into medication adherence was recently published.

“Association Between Different Types of Social Support and Medication Adherence,” December 2012 issue of American Journal of Managed Care

In this, researchers reviewed 50 peer-reviewed articles about studies which directly measured the relationship between medication adherence and four categories of social support, including:

  • Structural support – marital status, living arrangements and size of the patient’s social network
  • Practical support – helping patients by paying for medications, picking up prescriptions, reading labels, filling pill boxes and providing transportation
  • Emotional support – providing encouragement and reassurance of worth, listening and providing spiritual support
  • Combination support – any combination of the three support structures detailed above

According to the study, greater practical support was more often linked to improved medication adherence, with 67 percent of the studies evaluating practical support finding a significant association between the support and medication adherence.

It drives some interesting questions as you dig into the actual research.  I sent several questions to Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, who is the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark, and heads the research initiative that conducted the study.  Here are his responses:

1. How will this research change CVS Caremark’s approach to medication adherence such as your Adherence to Care program? 

CVS Caremark’s Adherence to Care program is all about engaging patients more consistently and directly to ensure they are following their medication regimes. We understand that our patients’ social networks and communication preferences are diverse, and we know that multi-dimensional interventions help to change behaviors. Given these factors, this research can be an important reference point as we develop new approaches to our adherence programs, challenging us to look beyond traditional engagement strategies in an effort to most effectively support patients on their path to better health. We are planning to test some interventions along these lines in 2013.  As a pharmacy innovation company, we want to make sure we are anticipating patient needs and remaining relevant to them especially given the changing face of social communication and networks.  

2.  The data points required to assess these support factors aren’t readily available in the eligibility file or claims file.  Are you collecting that data at the POS or during the enrollment process and using it in any way to determine the correct intervention cadence or level of effort at an individual level?

While this may not be the standard today, it is clear from the research that a patient’s social network and resulting support can be important factors in helping them take their medications as directed. This research can help us and others in the industry think about how best to incorporate new approaches to identify and leverage social networks for greater medication adherence.  For now, we will rely on POS as a way to collect this type of information.

 

  • 3.  To me, it appeared the data was less conclusive than I would like.  There were lots of conflicting data points and qualitative data.  Do you plan to refine this testing within your population to look at differences across disease states and relative to other factors?

 

This study relied on a comprehensive analysis of current literature linking medication adherence to social support networks – so we recognize that there are limitations in being able to draw concrete conclusions on certain factors, such as disease-specific conditions. Regardless, we still believe these findings – which look at clinical, peer-reviewed studies – contribute to the knowledge base in our field. As with all of the research we conduct, we challenge our teams to consider how we might be able to use the information to find practical supports for patients, while at the same time contributing to awareness about the implications of adherence on the broader health care landscape. The best way to understand this research is as hypothesis generating, which we can use in the design of real interventions that we can then test definitively in subsequent studies.

4.        Some of these social factors might be correlated with depression.  Was there any screening done to look at how depression as a co-morbidity might have affected adherence rates?

The methodology of this study relied on literature review and analysis of fifty peer-reviewed research articles which directly measured the relationship between medication adherence and forms of social support. A full review of the medical conditions associated with these studies can be found in Appendix 1. While depression, alone, was not one of the conditions featured in these studies, several did look at mental health conditions and the linkage between adherence and social networks. We did not however stratify by existence of depression—it may be a factor we have to take into account in future studies.

5.   The one thing that I read between the lines was the need for a caregiver strategy.  This has been missing in the industry for years.  Does CVS Caremark have an approach to engaging the caregivers?

 

Our study found that practical support such as picking up prescriptions, reading labels and filling pill boxes – all within the realm of a given caregiver’s role – were the most significant in driving greater adherence. Considering this finding, and acknowledging the role caretakers have in the lives of our patients, there is certainly space for us to develop solutions that engage caretakers more effectively. Recent analyses of “buddy” programs do suggest such interventions do work- -we just need to consider how to scale it.

 

  • 6.        With all this talk about social networks, it naturally leads you to a discussion about Facebook (or Google+).  Neither of them have big focuses in the healthcare space.  In your opinion, will these tools offer an intervention approach for changing behavior around medication or will that be occur at the disease community level in tools like PatientsLikeMe or CureTogether where there’s no social bond but a connectivity around disease? 

 

 The role of social media has changed the way we communicate and connect with one another dramatically over the past decade. What we can say, based on this particular study, is that the more practical the support, the more significant the impact on medication adherence. Perhaps further studies looking into solutions that effectively combine online/social media platforms to complement practical support would help clarify their impact on medication adherence.

If interested, here are some of their other presentations on adherence:

Interview With BodyMedia CEO at mHealth Summit #mhs12

BodyMedia 1

Last week at the mHealth Summit in DC, I had a chance to sit down and visit with Christine Robins who is the CEO of BodyMedia. (see bio below)  One of the most exciting things (mentioned at the end) is their new disposable solution coming out.

Christine Robins is currently the Chief Executive Officer of BodyMedia, Inc., a pioneering market leader in wearable body monitors. BodyMedia’s devices are unparalleled in the marketplace, and equip professionals and consumers with rich information to manage a range of health conditions impacted by lifestyle choices.

Prior to joining BodyMedia, Christine was the CEO of Philips Oral Healthcare where she led the global Sonicare® brand to significant sales and share growth. Christine also has extensive experience in a wide range of marketing and finance capacities gained during her 17 years at S.C. Johnson, where she ran notable brands such as Raid® insecticides, Glade® air fresheners, and Aveeno® skin care. With this background rooted in global multi-national companies and an entrepreneurial zeal essential to lead a high technology upstart, Chris is passionate about developing turnaround strategies, building teams, and driving innovation.

A noted speaker, Christine has delivered presentations at universities such as Harvard, Stanford and Duke, as well as keynotes at industry shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show, Health 2.0 and CTIA. She holds a degree in Marketing and Finance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA from Marquette University.

If you’re not familiar with BodyMedia, it’s definitely a company to know from a Quantified Self perspective. They have been around since 1999 providing solutions and have 150 global studies about the effectiveness of their devices in weight loss (see one chart below). The devices that they use continue to get smaller and smaller with time and are registered with the FDA as Class II medical devices.

clinical charts_2012_updated

Their devices track 5,000 data points per minute using 4 different sensors. Here are a few screen shots from the mobile apps that they have.

bodymedia iOS 3

And, as you can see, they map well to the chart below which shows what data consumers and physicians want to track with weight, calories, physical activity, and sleep patterns.

Quantified Self 2

For food tracking, they work with MyFitnessPal which provides them with data on products you eat. I think a good example can be seen in this screen shot from the Android app.

bodymedia 4

But, honestly, a lot of what I was really intrigued by was a new offering they’re rolling out called the “PATCH” which will be a 7-day, disposable body monitoring system that does everything the full blown system does. I don’t know the price point yet, but this is really exciting as a way to pull new people into the market and to use as a strategy for setting a baseline with a patient to understand their data. It could then lead to recommendations around disease management.

Another thing that Christine talked about was they’re approach to partnering with places like the Biggest Loser and other to allow for a customized content approach to your messaging from the system. She also showed me how the device will project where you will end up at the end of the day based on your past history.

They also have a module for a coach or weight loss professional to help manage and view data across all the people they’re working with.

(And, I just grabbed this image from their website since it points out the 3 key things to weight loss.)

iBlueButton Interview At The mHealth Summit #mhs12

I had a chance to sit down and do several interviews at the mHealth Summit earlier this week in DC. I’m slow to get my interviews posted, but they were all very interesting.

One of the best was with Dr. Bettina Experton (see bio below) of Humetrix. I will admit that reading about iBlueButton doesn’t do it justice. I was confused as to what they were trying to do and why it won an award. And, while explanatory after the fact, I found the graphic below intimidating as a consumer before talking with her.

[For those of you that don’t know what BlueButton is, you should go research it here.]

Dr. Experton explained to me how broad the BlueButton initiative now is. I only knew that CMS was using it, but apparently, there are now 200 plans also using it including Aetna, United Healthcare, and Humana. What Humetrix focused on for this offering was the mobile empowerment of BlueButton allowing the patient to have control of their information in the iOS platform (i.e., your Apple products – iPhone, iPad). They provide a tool for downloading and encrypting the data – prescription, medical claims, lab, and procedures.

iBlueButton

Of course, if you’ve ever seen what this data looks like in the raw form, this wouldn’t seem very helpful. Most of us wouldn’t know what to do with this. But, as Dr. Experton showed me, they’ve rendered the data in a great GUI (graphic user interface) that really brings it to life in a readable and understandable format. For example, they translate the NDC code (used for prescriptions) into the drug name with the chemical name and the dosage. The GUI is very iPod like in terms of simplicity and ease of use.

iBlueButton 2

The iBlueButton app even will pull in patient self-reported data from a PHR (personal health record) and show it in a different color and different section so the provider can understand the sources. Of course, this was another point of confusion for me before we talked which was how would a physician get this and what would they do with it. She showed me a demonstration of the patient opting to share their data and records with the provider in real-time. Of course, this assumes the provider’s office and/or the physician is actually using a device in the presence of the patient, but we know that is changing quickly these days. (See article on survey about MD use of iPad / iPhone.) So, with their tool, I can now store and share my data. The challenge still is integrating this data into the physician’s EMR (electronic medical record), but the iBlueButton app on the provider’s device can do this. It can also print it for those physicians who still want to see the printout in their paper file.

Another thing that you see in the second set of screen shots above is that you can start to report on whether you’re using the prescriptions still that it shows you on. Assuming patients engage, this would be a great tool for medication reconciliation and adherence discussions.

I’m not the Meaningful Use expert, but Dr. Experton pointed out to me that all of this is important since meaningful use requires viewing, downloading, and transmitting capabilities. They provide all of these.

I definitely plan to download iBlueButton and my data, and I hope to use this as a tool to reinforce why any claims provider should be offering you BlueButton access to your data. This is definitely a company to watch.

Bettina Experton, M.D., M.P.H.
President & CEO

Dr. Experton is the founder, President and CEO of Humetrix which she has led over the last 15 years on the HIT innovation path starting with the development of health risk appraisals, chronic care management software, and since the early 2000s with the development of novel mobile device-based solutions which have been deployed worldwide. A physician with over 20 years of healthcare informatics experience, Dr. Experton is the author of multiple information technology patents. At Humetrix, Dr. Experton also conducted groundbreaking health services research on the frail elderly which led to major federal legislation in the area of Medicare and managed care, and has been a national healthcare policy advisor in the US, China, and France. As a healthcare IT advisor to the French Ministry of Health, she made important contributions to the design of the newly launched French government sponsored single web-based individual health record with smart card access made available to French citizens and their physicians. Dr. Experton is an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the University of California at San Diego, School of Medicine and a permanent member of the Faculty of the School of Medicine in Paris, after graduating Summa Cum Laude where she completed her training in Internal Medicine. In California, Dr. Experton received a Master’s degree in Public Health with a major in epidemiology from Loma Linda University School of Public Health, completed a Pediatrics internship at University of California Davis Medical Center and a Public Health residency with the State of California Department of Health Services.

$WAG and $ESRX Reach New Pharmacy Deal!

Wow!  Finally! 

Those are my immediate reactions.  I just saw the news that Walgreens and Express Scripts have reached a new pharmacy deal effective 9/1/12.  I’m sure there are lots of consumers that will be happy about that and a few competitive PBMs that will be disappointed. 

A few things that this makes me think about:

  • The Walgreen’s shareholders will be happy.
  • Both parties can claim some victory by holding out so long.
  • I imagine that the limited network was working ok, but there wasn’t huge adoption.  It was probably also an issue in RFPs and with consultants.
  • Other PBMs were likely using this in selling against Express Scripts so they’ll be disappointed.
  • Obviously, the Medco contract with Walgreens was the big catalyst here.  Letting that transition to a point where they didn’t get any Medco or Express Scripts patients would be a disaster.
  • Will this change Walgreens collaboration with the NCPA against the PBMs and mail order or is that just the natural conflict here?

The biggest battle now will be around customer retention and winback.  Can Walgreens get their old Express Scripts patients to come back?  Can CVS and others hold on to the patients?  This will really test the theory about customer loyalty in the pharmacy space. 

The other interesting thing here is that this pushed Walgreens to really re-evaluate their strategy and market positioning.  Will they emerge as as stronger and different company because of this 9 month period.  I would think so, but that is still TBD.

inVentiv Medical Management and Vital Decisions

I’m excited about a new relationship at work with Vital Decisions.  Some of you have heard me talk about Palliative Care before.  The whole area of working with patients that have an advanced illness is a hot discussion topic especially within the CMS community (see yesterday’s WSJ).  But, while many consumers focus and worry about the idea of cost containment at this emotional time, Vital Decisions does a great job of using their behavioral counselors to work with patients to help them articulate their desires to their family and their physicians.  They’re not counseling them on medical decisions or trying to limit care.  They are simply trying to help patients to find a way to talk about this topic with their caregivers.

In some ways, it reminds me of the Engage With Grace movement to try to get families to talk about this with each other.  In this case, the conversation is coordinated with our care manager and part of an overall patient-centric approach to care.

Here’s some of the press release:

inVentiv Medical Management (iMM), an inVentiv Health company and provider of best-in-class medical management services to the healthcare industry, today announced that it has formed a partnership with Vital Decisions to better serve the needs of payers, providers, and seriously ill patients nationwide. The joint offering will support patients by empowering them to be more proactive decision makers when it comes to their health, and, thereby, reduce the use of costly care that is medically inappropriate or unwanted by individuals with advanced illnesses.

Together, iMM and Vital Decisions – an Edison, New Jersey-based company that provides patient-centered behavioral counseling programs for those with advanced illnesses – will offer a unique care management and counseling program to individuals battling metastatic cancer, end-stage heart or lung disease, and progressive neurologic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-ALS). The program is designed to encourage patients to work with their physicians and family members to make well-informed care decisions as their illnesses progress. inVentiv Medical Management case managers will provide patients with clinical advice, while Vital Decisions specialists will offer counseling support using the company’s proprietary “Living Well” program, which helps individuals with advanced illnesses communicate their quality-of-life preferences to those involved in their care.

Interview With Michael Graves On Healthcare Design

When I was in architecture school, Michael Graves was one of those architects that we studied.  Everyone wanted to be like him designing cool building like this one below.  Since then, he’s gone on to be even more famous both from an architecture perspective and a design perspective (even having his own Target line).

But, since he was left paralyzed from the chest down in 2003, he’s had an incredible focus on redesigning healthcare from the perspective of the patient.  [I would put him in a similar e-patient category as e-Patient Dave, but while Dave is focused on technology and data, Michael is focused on furniture and spatial experience.)

I was thrilled to get the chance to talk with him yesterday to see how this effort was taking off, and on a personal note, to see if this idea of architecture influencing outcomes would be generally accepted.  My general takeaway after talking with him was that he’s getting a very positive response as he talks to people about it, but you’re not seeing a sea-change in terms of clients focusing on this or his fellow architects embracing this.  But, as someone in healthcare, this isn’t surprising.  We know it takes physicians 17 years to adopt new standards…why should it take the administrators of those physicians any less.

At the same time, there is a huge focus on the patient experience and on outcomes these days.  Both of those can be improved through a focus on the physical experience.  I asked him whether he was seeing interest from both inpatient and outpatient facilities.  He indicated that the dialogue is all happening around hospitals which isn’t surprising given their investments in new facilities and the industry shift around ACOs and PCMHs.  But, any of us that have sat in a physician’s office looking at posters from the drug companies, outdated magazines, or just an overly sterile room, know that these things don’t relax you or make you comfortable.

Michael tells a story that I’d seen in other articles about how he first came to understand all the problems with the physical space in the hospital.  He wanted to shave one day and realized that he couldn’t see himself in the mirror and he couldn’t reach the water to turn it on.  It was all designed by someone that hadn’t put themselves in the patient’s shoes (or wheelchair) to understand their perspective on the space.

Since “evidence-based medicine” is all the buzz in the healthcare area, I asked him about the term “evidence-based design” which is used in several articles and on his website.  As he pointed out, it’s basically about just using common sense, but I do think there’s more there (to eventually sell this).  To me, this implies a level of rigor linking more practical furniture and spatial redesign to clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction.  These are the things that are going to motivate the CFO to open the purse strings to make a change.  Unfortunately in our healthcare system, there aren’t a lot of changes made just because the patient wants them or they make sense.  Otherwise, we’d have a healthcare system not a sick care system.

The final topic we discussed was moving beyond furniture to look at art and color and other things that could effect the patient’s experience.  He told me that he’s also a painter (which I didn’t know) and mentioned that one of his clients had bought some of his art and furniture for their facility.  He also reinforced a study that I’d seen before about not using abstract art but focusing more on natural scenes within the patient setting (also mentioned below).

Here’s a few articles from other interviews and a link to the work he’s doing with Stryker on medical equipment / furniture.  You can also see a press release on his upcoming presentation at the end of this post.

And, while Michael is focused on the furniture and spatial experience, there are others focused on the art, colors, and other aspects of the hospital experience.  I found this text from The Atlantic from a few years back that even talks about some of the studies that have been done.  [Maybe case managers should be asking for specific rooms in facilities!]

Such “evidence-based design,” which draws its principles from controlled studies, is the great hope of professionals who want to upgrade the look and feel of medical centers. Much of this research follows a seminal 1984 Science article by Roger S. Ulrich, now at the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M. He looked at patients recovering from gallbladder surgery in a hospital that had some rooms overlooking a grove of trees and identical rooms facing a brick wall. The patients were matched to control for characteristics, such as age or obesity, that might influence their recovery. The results were striking. Patients with a view of the trees had shorter hospital stays (7.96 days versus 8.70 days) and required significantly less high-powered, expensive pain medication.

Along similar lines, a 2005 study compared patients recovering from elective spinal surgery whose rooms were on the sunny side of a ward with those on the dimmer side. Those in the sunnier rooms rated their stress and pain lower and took 22 percent less pain medication each hour, incurring only 80 percent of the pain-medication costs of the patients in gloomier rooms. Other studies, with subjects ranging from the severely burned to cancer patients to those receiving painful bronchoscopies, have found that looking at nature images significantly reduces anxiety and increases pain tolerance. Not all distractions are good, however. Ulrich and others have found that inescapable TV broadcasts and “chaotic abstract art” can increase patients’ stress.

Press release about his upcoming presentation:

World-Renown Architect Becomes Healthcare Advocate After Rare Illness Leaves Him Paralyzed

Michael Graves to speak at medical conference about his passion for healthcare design


Michael Graves, the award-winning architect and product designer famous for his collection of home products sold at Target, will address the country’s top healthcare professionals during a special reception at the 2012 Health Forum and the American Hospital Association Leadership Summit next month.  He will give a personal account about how paralysis fueled his desire to improve healthcare design.

Graves, who was recently named the 2012 recipient of the Richard H. Driehaus Prize and applies his design philosophy to designing better hospitals and home care environments, will be the featured speaker immediately following the welcome reception of the 2012 AHA Summit, at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 19.

In his lecture, “People First: Redesigning the Hospital Room,” Graves will discuss his own experience with a sinus infection that left him paralyzed from the chest down and how undergoing hospitalization and rehabilitation in inadequately designed hospital rooms has inspired his healthcare designs.

Graves talk will focus on design solutions for Stryker Medical, including a collection of hospital patient room furniture that addresses common hospital problems such as infection control, patient falls and clinician back.

“We are thrilled to have such a highly-acclaimed and gifted architect speaking before the healthcare community about ways of improving the hospital setting,” said Harold Michels, senior vice president of the Copper Development Association (CDA), the organization hosting the dinner event with Graves.  “This is a can’t-miss event that will certainly have hospital CEO’s and healthcare advocates talking about way after it’s over.”

Graves has said that spending months in hospitals during his recovery in 2003 opened his eyes to poorly designed patient rooms, and made him realize the patient experience could be improved by design.  He immediately began to sketch ideas for improving hospital buildings, room and furniture.

The event is being presented by CDA’s Antimicrobial Copper team, which is working to advance the message that copper surfaces intrinsically kill disease-causing bacteria.  On display will be a variety of antimicrobial copper products, which can play a pivotal role in healthcare facilities by killing bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections and by reducing costs.

Laboratory testing has demonstrated that antimicrobial copper surfaces kill more than 99.9% of the following HAI causing bacteria within 2 hours of exposure:  MRSA, VRE, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli O157:H7.

Graves is internationally recognized as a healthcare design advocate, and in 2010, the Center for Health Design named Michael Graves one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in Healthcare Design.  Graves regularly gives lectures to major healthcare advocacy groups, including AARP, the Healthcare Design Conference, Medicine X and TED MED.

About Michael Graves & Associates

Michael Graves & Associates has been in the forefront of architecture and design since AIA Gold Medalist Michael Graves founded his practice in 1964. Today, the practice comprises two firms run by eight principals. Michael Graves & Associates (MGA) provides planning, architecture and interior design services, and Michael Graves Design Group (MGDG) specializes in product design, graphics and branding. MGA has designed many master plans and the architecture and interiors of over 350 buildings worldwide, including hotels and resorts, restaurants, retail stores, civic and cultural projects, office buildings, healthcare, residences and a wide variety of academic facilities. MGDG has designed and brought to market over 2,000 products for clients such as JC Penney, Target, Alessi, Stryker and Disney. Graves and the firms have received over 200 awards for design excellence. With a unique, highly integrated multidisciplinary practice, the Michael Graves Companies offer strategic advantages to clients worldwide. For more information, visit www.michaelgraves.com.

About the Copper Development Association

The Copper Development Association Inc. is the market development, engineering and information services arm of the copper industry, chartered to enhance and expand markets for copper and its alloys in North America. Learn more on ourblog. Follow us on Twitter.

Discussing Oncology Prevention With Dr. Hawk From MD Anderson #WHCC12

Last week, I had a chance to sit down with Dr. Hawk right after his presentation at the World Health Care Congress (WHCC). Dr. Hawk is the Vice-President and Division Head for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. He’s been there since late 2007 when he came from the National Cancer Institute.

My favorite point from talking to him was…

Cancer is a process not an event. Communication is critical.

In his presentation, he talked about several things:

So, after his formal presentation, we talked about several things.

  1. One of the big focus areas for MD Anderson is prevention. As we know from research, many cancers are preventable. And, the promise of personalize medicine and genetic testing is beginning to help us understand these cancers and their treatments even more.
    1. Primary – this would include lifestyle changes such as diet and smoking which help prevent the disease
    2. Secondary – this would include screening and detection to help slow the progression of the disease
    3. Tertiary – this would include the focus on the patient (not the tumor) for treatment and helping them with quality of life
  2. He talked about how cancer is really 200 different diseases to be understood and managed.
  3. He gave a great analogy about how CVD (cardio-vascular disease) evolved and talked about how all the individual risk factors became asymptomatic diseases which have led to all the “know your number” campaigns around lipids and blood pressure.
  4. We talked about cancer as a process which led us into the discussion about palliative care and shared decision making. He made another good analogy here about driving a car. We need to understand the value of wearing our seat belt and having insurance, but we have to make the final decision about whether to do that or not.
  5. We talked about personalized medicine including genomics and epigenetics. We talked about how this impacts dosing and understanding of the tumor. (Interesting in a conversation with another person in this field this week they were telling me about how tumors and viruses change over time and those implications on genetic test results.) We also talked about SNPs and the complications in getting validation in studies due to sample sizes. We wrapped up this topic with discussions on coordinated registries and work that companies like 23andMe are doing.
  6. Our final topic of discussion was around clinical practice algorithms and how evidence-based medicine (EBM) gets implemented. We talked about the use of guidelines and how those allow for monitoring the use of EBM standards. We also talked about the need for integrated EMRs that would allow for benchmarking and linking outcomes to use of guidelines.

This is a fascinating area. Cancer affects most of us either directly or through some family member or friend.

Interview With Laurel Pickering NEBGH At #WHCC12

Yesterday, I sat down with Laurel Pickering, MPH who is the President and CEO of the Northeast Business Group on Health.  This was a great follow-up to the session she moderated with PEBTF and CalPERs and allowed me to validate my list of focus areas for employers(Note: I did not use a tape recorder and have translated our dialogue into the discussion below so while it is based on my discussions with Laurel these should not be considered specific quotes.)

The first thing we discussed was the concept of ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations) and how employers think about them (or similar concepts).  She talked about the fact that most employers don’t understand the ACO framework in specific.  They may have heard something about the idea of a medical home or mention of the ACO, but they are more broadly focused on the conversion to an outcomes-based future.  Initially, there are some leading edge employers and coalitions that you hear talking about these concepts at conferences, but in general, employers are going to look to their payors to lead this effort and think about how to embrace these new quality and payment frameworks.

We then talked about what are the issues that keep her up at night.  In general, we focused on three things:

  1. Reform – What is the future of healthcare reform and how will that impact employers?
  2. Cost – How can we control costs both direct and indirect?  And, what is the role of prevention in cost management?
  3. Engagement – Even if we understand how to control costs, how do we engage consumers to take action?  Is it through incentives, gamification, social media, mobile, or other tools?

We then talked about incentives and paying consumers (employees) for healthcare actions.  She described three phases here:

  • Phase I: Payment for completing and HRA (which many companies have done for several years).
  • Phase II: Payment for completing specific screenings and participating in programs for which the patient is engaged (i.e., respond with the case manager calls you).  (This seems to be a rapidly emerging standard with many employers.)
  • Phase III: Payment tied to achievement of different outcomes (weight loss, BMI, smoking cessation, blood sugar, blood pressure).  (This is a lot further off and much more complicated, but it’s something that people are beginning to look at.)

We wrapped up with two topics – new technologies and ROI.  In today’s environment, everyone is looking at mobile health and telemedicine.  The question of course is how to get these tools used, paid for, and demonstrating the ROI.  From a technology perspective, we talked mostly about the idea of the “digitally naive” (i.e., people under 16 today) for which technology is the norm.  They’ve never experienced life without mobile phones and computers and Google.  As this generation becomes patients, they won’t think twice about using technology as a way to see their physician and monitor their health.

From an ROI perspective, this has become a table stake to play.  Everyone requires some case study for use.  But, we had a great discussion about the flexibility of calculating ROI and how companies do look beyond just the simple avoided medical costs.  They look at presenteeism.  They look at satisfaction.  They look at overall

8 Common Employer Healthcare Themes #WHCC12

I had the opportunity to listen to some heads of HR a few weeks ago and then sit in on an employer session yesterday at the World Healthcare Congress here in DC.  It was interesting the common themes that clearly were emerging from the presentations by PEBTF and CalPERs along with the event I was at before.

  • Incentives
  • Biometrics
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Steerage of consumers to lower cost “Centers of Excellence”
  • Reference-based pricing to address unwarranted variation
  • Cost / transparency tools
  • Consumer engagement
  • Integrated care

Bad Pitch

I was just reading an email pitch that I received from a healthcare social networking vendor talking about their system for engaging patients and physicians.

Maybe, it’s just me but that seems to imply some understanding of how to engage people and use social media. First, they didn’t use my name in the email. It just said “Hi ,”. Then, at no point in the pitch did they say anything about why they reached out to me. And finally, they then asked me to tweet specific pre-formatted tweets that they had created. If I wanted that, I would follow them and do a RT.

And to top it off, they don’t offer a way to follow-up to learn more. It was just shameless self-promotion. #Fail

Walgreens Interview As Follow-up To Their White Paper

As anyone who follows the pharmacy industry knows (and now millions of consumers), Walgreens and Express Scripts have had an ongoing contract dispute since mid-2011.  Most of us expected this to get resolved by the end of the year to minimize patient disruption, but it didn’t.

With that in mind, Walgreens has published several white papers to help articulate the results of their employer survey data and to help plans quantify the value of keeping Walgreens in the network.  As this is a fascinating case study that will someday make a great Harvard case study, I reached out to Walgreens to get their thoughts on a few points.

Thanks to their PR team, I was able to get responses from Michael Polzin, their VP of Corporate Communications, to my questions.

Consumers are always resistant to change.  After the initial disruption and assuming you eventually reach terms with Express Scripts, how will you get your consumers to return to Walgreens’ pharmacy?  Is the retail pharmacy experience able to be significantly differentiated?  How are you doing this today?

As we’ve previously stated, we are now moving on without being part of the Express Scripts network. While we are open to any fair and competitive offer from them, we also are fine with continuing to operate our business without Express Scripts.

We intend to retain patients affected by this situation over time by reaching out on both a consumer level and a business-to-business level. To date, more than 120 health plans, employers and other Express Scripts clients have informed us that they have either changed pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) or taken steps consistent with their contracts to maintain access to Walgreens pharmacies in 2012.  That represents 10 million of the 88 million Express Scripts prescriptions we filled last year. We’re also in active negotiations with many health plans and employers to provide access to Walgreens in their networks as soon as their contracts allow. In addition to those 10 million prescriptions already retained, we also expect to retain many Medicare Part D patients who previously were in an Express Scripts-managed Part D plan and moved to a different plan during last fall’s open enrollment period. We will get more detail on those numbers when CMS announces the results of the open enrollment period later this month.

On the consumer level, they are very receptive to looking at options to continue using Walgreens pharmacies whenever possible. They want to retain their choice of pharmacy and are exercising that ability as best they can. For example, we’ve had great response this month with our Prescription Savings Club (PSC) promotion. The PSC offers savings on more than 8,000 brand name and all generic medications. During the month of January, you can get an annual membership in this program for just $5 ($10 for a family).  We have seen more than 250,000 patients sign up for the club just since Jan. 1, and we continue to have record sign-up days. The interest we’ve seen in the club has been extraordinary.

As for differentiating the retail pharmacy experience, that is exactly what we are doing through our new Well Experience store format, which has piloted so far in about 20 Chicago area stores and the entire Indianapolis market. The pharmacy, health and wellness area of these stores are truly a game changer. The pharmacist is more accessible by bringing them out from behind the pharmacy counter to a desk in front of the pharmacy. As a result, patient interactions are higher than our pharmacists have ever experienced. The format also allows for tighter integration between our Take Care Clinic nurse practitioners and pharmacists to create a real community health corner.

We’ve had many CEOs of major health plans and large employers tour these Well Experience stores, and their No. 1 comment is, “This is exactly what we need. How fast can you make this happen?”

The white papers are good summaries for the consultants. How are you taking your message to other constituents – consumers, MDs, Wall Street?

Our best ambassadors to consumers are our pharmacy staffs. They are the ones with the trusted relationship with our customers and are able to have individual, face-to-face conversations with them. They’ve done a tremendous job educating our patients, and that’s why we’re seeing so much interest in the PSC and have patients finding other ways to continue using Walgreens, such as using their spouse’s coverage, if available.

The same is true with physicians. Our pharmacy staff work with them every day and help them find the best options for their patients including generic alternatives that can be very competitive through the PSC card with a 90-day supply compared with the patient’s program under Express Scripts.

As for Wall Street, we’ve been quite active speaking at analyst conferences, addressing the issue on our earnings conference calls and at our recent annual shareholders meeting. The analysts also have found our white papers and other SEC filings to be helpful in understanding the situation.

Ultimately, payers/employers care about cost.  If a PBM creates savings for them thru a limited network, can you summarize what they lose by not including Walgreens and how that transfers to hard dollar savings?  Are Walgreens consumers more engaged with their health?  Are they more satisfied with their healthcare?

Our research demonstrates the importance of Walgreens presence in a payers’ network in addition to the cost factor. A Walgreens proprietary survey conducted in December of 823 executives and managers who are key decision makers for pharmacy benefit decisions or provide input found that 82 percent of employers said that they would not exclude Walgreens for less than 5 percent savings on their total pharmacy spend. Sixty percent of employers would not exclude Walgreens for less than 10 percent savings, and 21 percent would not exclude Walgreens from their network regardless of the amount of savings. These findings on employer attitudes are consistent with recent research published by several leading equity research analysts. Clearly, employers value having Walgreens as a pharmacy option for their employees, but Express Scripts wants to take that choice away.

Now, add to that the small variation in costs among pharmacies. We believe that the vast majority of pharmacies, including Walgreens, receive reimbursements per prescription that fall within a narrow band, typically within less than 5 percent of one another. Therefore, excluding any pharmacy with our 20 percent market share from a 5 percent pricing band can only result in savings on the order of 1 percent or less. And that doesn’t take into consideration the additional savings Walgreens can provide through our leading generic dispensing rate or the 7 percent savings that payers can see by adding a 90-day refill option at our retail pharmacies.

It’s also important to point out that during negotiations, Walgreens offered to hold rates for a new contract flat and did not seek an increase in rates. The response from Express Scripts was to insist on being able to unilaterally define contract terms, such as what does and does not constitute a brand and generic drug. Express Scripts also proposed to slash Walgreens reimbursement rates to levels below the industry average cost to provide each prescription.

Walgreens is focused on helping payers with their total health care spend, not just the 10-12 percent of their health care costs that are spent on prescription drugs. While a patient with asthma can lower drug spend by not getting refills on their medication, the resulting emergency room visit that could result will be much more expensive overall for the payer. So we are focused on expanding the pharmacist’s role among health care providers to lower overall medical costs rather than focusing on drug spend alone.

Adherence is a big issue these days especially in Medicare where it is one of the key Star measures for PDP. One of the key value points in the paper is about adherence. How has Walgreens improved patient adherence and are you collaborating with payers to do this?

Walgreens pharmacies provide many medication adherence services, counseling and other assistance that lowers medical costs by improving outcomes. These include monthly adherence calls to inform patients about critical upcoming blood tests that are required to continue therapy; next-day home delivery for medications; assistance programs to help patients minimize risk resulting from economic circumstances that may negatively impact therapy compliance; and alerts for missed doses, at-risk patient behavior or serious adverse side effects that are communicated to a prescribing physician. We also offer 90-day supplies of medication, further promoting adherence. Walgreens pharmacists have consistently demonstrated increased adherence to chronic medicines for high-risk conditions for the populations that we serve. For example, for patients in one study who filled their statin and thyroid medications at community pharmacies and who consulted with a pharmacist, a significant improvement in first refill rates resulted (from 55.7 percent to 70.4 percent) after the adherence program was implemented.

While CVS has opted to own a PBM, Walgreens has sold their PBM.  Has this experience with Express Scripts changed the way you interact and contract with PBMs?  Do you think this will have broader implications on the industry?

I think it has helped us tremendously in terms of building closer relationships with other PBMs and payers. We’re moving forward with partners such as Catalyst Rx, Prime Therapeutics and SXC Health Solutions, and health plans such as Coventry and Humana. All of us see this as an opportunity to create a differentiated offering during the upcoming selling season.

Have any PBMs stepped up to work more strategically with you to create a differentiated offering to take advantage of this disruption during the 2012 selling season?

See answer above.

What’s next?  As Walgreens looks to the future and focuses on creating new value, how are you embracing key changes in the industry around health reform and technology innovation?

See question 1 and our development of the Well Experience store and pharmacy format.

Presenting at PBMI in February

I am excited about the opportunity to present at PBMI in February.  I hope many of you will be there.  If you want to meet up, send me a quick note at gvanantwerp at mac dot com.  Thanks.

Here’s the description of my presentation:

The PBM industry continues to consolidate through mergers and acquisitions.  At the same time, new PBMs and niche PBMs continue to grow.  While the majority of the green space is gone, there is increasing focus on the individual market through exchanges and the Managed Medicaid market.  But, this maturing of the market has forced PBMs to look at more organic growth opportunities also.  How do you retain business?  How do you innovate?  How can you increase profitability per member?  With a few large market dynamics playing out in 2012, we’ll begin to look at what the future might hold and what we can learn from the past.  It is an interesting time for all PBMs, pharmacies, and manufacturers as they embrace the role of pharmacy in improving overall health outcomes.   

2011 Blog Overview and Press Hits Update!

2011 was a great year for the blog with over 120,000 visits and 365 new posts (conveniently averaging 1 per day).  You can see the top posts here.  The blog led to several new opportunities at Silverlink, and it generated numerous press opportunities. 

The blog now has over 400 people who get an e-mail every time a new post is published.  The content is then syndicated to the 930 people who follow me on Twitter and to my 1252 contacts in LinkedIn.  I’m happy with this for something I do in my spare time.

In August, I shared my press hits YTD which numbered 25 times.  Since then, I’ve had 27 more which are listed below:

  1. Dec 26th issue of Health Plan Week about Express Scripts and Walgreens
  2. Jan 1st issue of Managed Healthcare Executive on limited networks
  3. Dec 2nd issue of Drug Benefit News on Lipitor
  4. Dec 2nd issue of Drug Benefit News on Prime Therapeutics Retail MTM solution
  5. Dec 2nd issue of Drug Benefit News on PBM Deal Making
  6. November Frost & Sullivan newsletter on consumer engagement
  7. PBMI Report
  8. Nov 11th issue of Drug Benefit News on Pfizer’s Lipitor strategy
  9. Nov 11th issue of Drug Benefit News on the PBMI Report
  10. Oct 28th issue of Drug Benefit News on OptumRx
  11. Oct 28th issue of Drug Benefit News on CVS Caremark case study
  12. AIS webinar on copay cards / coupons
  13. AIS webinar on PBM outsourcing
  14. Oct 7th issue of Drug Benefit News on Outcomes-Based Contracting
  15. PCMA Smart Brief on Oct 5th regarding PBM disclosure of profits
  16. Sept 23rd issue of Drug Benefit News on Mobile Apps
  17. Sept 23rd issue of Drug Benefit News on Anthem study
  18. Drug Channels mention of my post on the Prime Therapeutics Trend Report
  19. PCMA Smart Brief on Aug 11th re: NY bill
  20. Sept 9th issue of Drug Benefit News on the Prime Therapeutics Trend Report
  21. Sept 9th issue of Drug Benefit News on the proposed Express Scripts acquisition of Medco
  22. Sept 9th issue of Drug Benefit News on Generics
  23. Aug 22nd issue of Health Plan Week on Generics
  24. Aug 24th Reuters article on the proposed Express Scripts acquisition of Medco
  25. Aug 19th mention in Health Reform Watch
  26. Aug 19th issue of Drug Benefit News on Part D
  27. Presentation with Aetna at the Care Continuum Alliance on engaging the hard to engage

Cost and Outcomes Drive Better Use of Data

Overall, I would describe healthcare companies as trying to figure out how to drive the best outcomes at the lowest cost while maintaining a positive consumer experience.  This isn’t easy.  One area of opportunity that companies increasingly look at is how to use data to become smarter. 

  • Can I build a predictive model of response curves?  Who’s likely to respond?  Who’s likely to take action?
  • Can I develop a segmentation model that works?  How will I customize my communications after the segmentation?
  • Can I rank and prioritize my outreaches?  Should I do that based on risk or based on potential value? 

Ultimately, I think this is driving companies to be a lot smarter and to look at how they use both medical and pharmacy data.  For example, I’ll point to both CVS Caremark and Prime Therapeutics in press releases from earlier this year. 

“The ActiveHealth CareEngine offers evidence-based information that can be used to improve the health care of our members and enables us to take our programs to the next level by seamlessly incorporating medical data,” stated Troyen Brennan, EVP and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark. “This agreement will enhance our existing programs to identify issues related to gaps in care, potential drug-to-drug interactions and duplicative care — information that is important to bring to the attention of the member’s physician.”  (article that this is sourced from)

Smart use of medical and pharmacy data is one of the most powerful tools we have to improve outcomes and increase value for our members and clients,” said David Lassen, PharmD, Chief Clinical Officer at Prime. “Through ongoing partnership with health plan clients, Prime is uniquely positioned to view the entire spectrum of patient care, and we can leverage that information to help manage cost and to improve outcomes. We are very excited to collaborate with Corticon on the development of this clinical platform.” (press release)

The next step will be to integrate PRO (patient reported outcomes) from sources like connected devices and PHR (personal health records) that might show blood pressure, workouts, calories, or other data points that could help companies determine when to intervene and how to add value to drive an outcome.

Additionally, another key is continued work in the outcomes-based contracting world and bonus areas such as Star Ratings where the financial value is tied in the short-term to outcomes.  This creates a burning platform for smarter use of data and use of a broader set of data to understand and impact care.

Text4Baby Learnings About Flu Shots And More

Here’s a slide presentation from the Text4Baby team that they presented yesterday.  This has been one of the biggest SMS programs in the country and has gotten a lot of press.  They did a survey of people about their plans to get flu shots and also share some other data and plans.

Reprint: Getting Aligned For Consumer Engagement

(This just appeared in the publication by Frost  & Sullivan and McKesson called “Mastering the Art and Science of Patient Adherence“.  It was written by me so I’m sharing it here also for those of you that don’t get that publication.)

According to the 15th Annual NBGH/Towers Watson Health Survey, employees’ poor health habits are the number one issue for maintaining affordable benefits. Since studies have shown that 50-to-70 percent of healthcare costs are attributed to consumer choices and adherence is one of those issues, the topic of how to engage consumers isn’t going away.

The challenge is getting the healthcare industry to use analytics and technology tools when engaging the consumer in a way that works for each individual and builds on their proven success in other industries. Healthcare has an enormous amount of consumer data ranging from demographics to claims and behavior data. Consequently, there is great opportunity to use this data to engage consumers in their health to improve clinical outcomes. While on the one hand, it’s like motivating consumers to buy a good, the reality is that healthcare is both personal and local which complicates the standard segmentation models.

This is a dynamic time where people are experimenting with different strategies for engagement. For instance, in medication adherence, people are trying everything from teaming those who have chronic conditions with community pharmacists to make sure they are taking their medications correctly to technology that monitors when the pill actually enters your body. But, there are still fundamental gaps in the process which can be addressed using interactive technology to complement the pharmacist interventions.

Consumer engagement in healthcare is increasingly moving to new channels with 59 percent of adults in the U.S. looking for health information online and 9 percent using mobile health applications according to Pew Research Center. Additionally, there is more and more participation in social media or peer-to-peer healthcare applications. Modes like SMS, which companies are starting to leverage in programs like Text4Baby or the diabetes reminder program recently launched by Aetna, are gaining popularity. Companies like Walgreens have also begun exploring the use of SMS and Quick Response (QR) codes for medication refills.

At the end of the day, consumers want preference-based marketing where they can elect how to best engage them, but that doesn’t mean that’s the most likely channel to get them to take action.They want you to learn from their past responses to improve your future outreach, but they are also skeptic about how their data is used. You have to put yourself in their shoes to create the optimal consumer experience. You have to deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time using the right sequence and combination of channels.This is not easy.

So, if you’re going to optimize your resources and build the best consumer experience, you need an approach which is dynamic and personalizes each experience. For example, we found that creating the right sequence and timing around direct mail and automated calls improved results by as much as 100 percent in a pharmacy program. Or, in another case, at Silverlink Communications, we found that using a male voice in an automated call to Latinos got an 89 percent better engagement rate around colonoscopies. We also know that using a peer pressure message does not work in motivating seniors to take action in both a retail-to-mail program and a cancer screening program, but does work for those younger than 55-years-old?

You have to make simple messaging relevant to them—why should I get a vaccination, why is medication adherence important, how can you address my barriers? Only an ongoing test and learn approach to consumer insights will suffice, and those that figure this out will become critical in the ongoing fight for mindshare and trust. But, this isn’t a stand-alone opportunity. We have to partner with providers to improve engagement, adherence, and ultimately outcomes in different forms. We have to offer them a platform for engagement that is built upon consumer insights and provides a unique consumer experience to them based on their disease, their demographic attributes, and their plan design. All of these factor into their behavior and are important in “nudging” them towards healthcare engagement and ultimately, better health.

Sustained Patient Engagement Around Hypertension: Silverlink and Aetna

At Silverlink, we had a great opportunity to work with one of our clients and publicize it. This morning, Aetna released a joint press release with us about our hypertension program.

As companies continue to look at new ways to use technology to engage patients around chronic diseases, solutions like this offer companies a unique way to blend multiple channels into an overall consumer experience that improves engagement and outcomes.

From the press release:

The program also achieved high levels of engagement, with nearly 60 percent of participants continuing to actively monitor their blood pressure by using a free blood pressure monitor and submitting readings on a monthly basis. The frequency of participants’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol) screening also improved 5 percent.

“By helping our Medicare members manage their high blood pressure, we are hoping to help prevent heart disease, strokes and even deaths,” says Randall Krakauer, MD, FACP, FACR, Aetna’s national Medicare medical director. “Our nurse case managers work closely with our members and do a tremendous job providing them with the information, tools and support they need to help them control and improve various chronic conditions, including hypertension. The results of our program with Silverlink demonstrate that an automated program can further support and engage members in managing their own health conditions.”

Highlights From the Takeda / PBMI 2011-2012 Prescription Drug Report

PBMI puts this out each year with funding support from Takeda. It is another one of those great annual reports full of lots of trend data for you to digest. Let me pull out a few of the things that stood out to me, but I recommend you read the entire thing yourself:

  • Use of 4-tier plans grew by 25% in 2011.
  • Specialty copays increased by 37% (to $84).
  • Plans continue to offer 90-day mail at a lower copay multiple than 90-day retail.

  • Nearly 60% of plans allow 90-day retail prescriptions. [Wow! This was a shocker to me.]
  • 30% of respondents require specialty medications to be filled by their PBM. [Which seemed low to me.]

 

  • Only 5% of respondents said they give their PBM responsibility for plan design.
  • 18% of plans have mandatory mail (although the statistic is 26% for respondents who have pharmacy provided as a carve-out).
  • 21% of plans have a limited retail network.
  • 36% of plans have copay waivers.
  • 7% of plans cover some form of genetic testing.
  • In general, there was an equal view of all the forces impacting benefit plans.

 

  • 64% of plans are focusing on member education to help them control costs. [exactly what we do at Silverlink everyday!]

Here’s a key chart on average copays for 3-tier plan designs.

 

Another summary they show from some external research is below:

 

Adam Fein recently pointed this out, but the use of MAC pricing at mail is pitifully low at 18% versus 42% for 30-day retail.  (More from Adam on the report.)

I’m always interested in the overall use of programs by plans which is summarized here. Interestingly, there were three areas which carve-in did much less than carve-out – outbound phone calls, retro DUR, and therapeutic substitution.

 

They also include a summary of several research studies on adherence with a quote from me:

“In working with healthcare companies around adherence, our focus is always on how to best use data and technology to personalize interventions in a scalable way,” said George Van Antwerp, 2011-2012 Prescription Drug Benefit Cost and Plan Design Report Advisory Board member. “Medication adherence is a multi-faceted issue. While there is no silver bullet, technology can help deliver different messages to consumers based on the complexity of their condition, specific medications, and their plan design (for example). But, while technology can provide the initial nudge, the care team has to work together to address health literacy and build an understanding of the condition, the medication, and value of adherence.”

Another data point that I often use from here is the average number of Rxs PMPM:

 

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