Tag Archives: Transparency

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. 

 

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$83,000 In Savings On 3 Procedures – The Driver Of Transparency & Reference-Based Pricing

At the front of the HealthLeaders Magazine, they have a FactFile every month with data from Truven Health.  The one from March 2014 focused on price variation and transparency.  I thought I’d share a few of the charts.

This first chart shows their projections about the impact of a price transparency tool on cost savings over three years.  (BTW – If you’re looking for information on price transparency tools, I would go to Jane Sarasohn-Kahn‘s blog HealthPopuli and look at her posts on transparency – Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V).  Their projection was $6,786,000 in year 3 for an employer with 20,000 employees (or about 46,000 total covered lives if you assume a ratio of 2.3).

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The other topic in the FactFile is about price variation and potential savings.  They looked at three procedures and the variation in pricing for them.  They then estimated the savings from those three procedures for an Chicago based employers.

As you can see, the variation is dramatic.  What this will eventually lead to is called “reference-based pricing” where payers will agree to pay a fixed amount (or reference price) for a procedure and consumers will have to use transparency tools to figure out which providers will meet that price or pay out of pocket to go elsewhere.  The hope is that this will drive down prices, make consumers aware of differences, and finally help people understand that price and quality are NOT correlated in healthcare.

Here’s a few articles to read on price transparency:

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2014 Healthcare Predictions and Trends

Happy New Year!  2013 has been an interesting year in healthcare with 2014 promising many more exciting developments.  A few of the biggest stories from 2013 include:

  • Healthcare.gov – the politics, the drama, and the missteps
  • Healthcare transparency and costs – new companies, new revelations, and an entire Time magazine focused on it
  • Healthcare engagement – ongoing focus on how to get consumers to engage
  • mHealth and QuantifiedSelf – apps and devices proliferate
  • Investment – a huge jump in VC and angel funding for healthcare
  • ACOs – do they work or not
  • Big Data – so much data…so many opportunities

Here’s my predictions for 2014:

  1. Transparency – The race to bring cost data to the forefront of the consumer mindset will move from a radical concept to an expectation.  With increased out-of-pocket costs and HDHPs, consumers will expect access and information to cost data.  They will look for systems that can predict what they need and push data to them in a timely fashion using location based services and predictive algorithms. 
  2. Exchanges – With big companies trying the private exchanges and moving their employees to the federal exchange, we’ll see the market holding its breadth to see what happens.  If this drives success on both sides of the equation – employers and payers, you can expect a large jump in this direction later in the year.   
  3. Mobile – The traditional member website will continue to die a slow death without mobile optimization in place.  More and more consumers will access the healthcare system through a smart phone or device like an iPad.  This will drive healthcare companies to figure out how to embrace user design and member experience in new ways as they strive to provide the sustainable app that consumers use more than a few times. 
  4. Providers – Providers will continue to cautiously embrace pay-for-performance, value-based healthcare, and models like ACOs and PCMHs.  They will want them to work, but they will continue to look for the Tipping Point in which their overall panel is part of these programs.  Providers will also begin to modify their workflows using technology based on Meaningful Use and the ubiquity of technology. 
  5. Engagement – Consumer engagement in healthcare will continue to be the elusive Holy Grail.  Companies will try behavioral economics, incentives, and mass personalization to try and get consumers to understand healthcare and take actions to improve their health.  There will be more shifting to include caregivers and embrace social media (e.g., Facebook) and peer-to-peer networks.  We will start to see documented case studies and results in terms of improved outcomes. 
  6. Devices – While 2013 was the year of device proliferation, we will see the number of people (early adopters and QuantifiedSelf groupies) maxing out.  I expect some further consolidation and a dip in adoption rate as we move into the period of disillusionment.  Devices will be less about a standalone solution and look at how they integrate with the smart phone and existing systems (at work and home).  Like smart pills and smart clothes, this will lead to increased data and integration into daily life.  This will require collaboration with providers and employers to figure out how to come through this period.
  7. Value-based – CMS will continue to be a big driver in pushing new payment models around healthcare as they struggle to figure out how to slow the tidal wave of costs coming in Medicare and Medicaid.  This will meet up with some of the progress in the commercial space with ACO and PCMH models leading to an evolving path in terms of how drive value.  This won’t be the breakthrough year, but we’ll see meaningful progress. 
  8. Investments – I don’t see any slowdown in healthcare investments.  Our health issues aren’t going away in the US or abroad.  China is just emerging with a long list of health issues and technology is creating new solutions in 3rd World countries. 
  9. Pills Plus – With pharma struggling with how to reinvent itself, they are going to look at new solutions like Merck is doing with Vree Health.  This will cause them to look at many of these trends and how they wrap services, technology, and incentives around their medications.  
  10. Specialty Care – Specialty pharmacy will continue to be a big growth driver with novel innovations coming down the pipe.  But, these pharmacies will realize that they can’t work in a vacuum.  They have to do a better job at integrating care management into their services and partnering with Case Management companies to holistically treat the patient. 
  11. Metabolic Syndrome – The overall global issues of obesity and diabetes will become a huge weight around the shoulders of the healthcare system.  While the focus will continue to be on the complex cases requiring massive dollars, the majority of people will be struggling with a chronic disease.  Metabolic Syndrome will become a big focus for payers, employers, and health services companies as they try to find ways to prevent further complications. 
  12. Prevention – While I don’t expect a huge shift here, I think we’ll start to hear more voices on the perimeter yelling about why we only spend 5% of our dollars on prevention.  They’ll point out other models outside the US spending more with better outcomes.  Health Reform will begin to enable some change here, but it will be slow. 
  13. Community Based Care – With more people coming back into the healthcare system with Health Reform, there will be a greater need for location based access to healthcare.  This will involve clinics but will be much broader.  Companies will need to look at how they embrace community resources like churches to engage the disengaged and poor who don’t trust the system and have limited access to the traditional channels.  

If E-Prescribing Doesn’t Have All The Data…Is It Helpful?

This is an interesting dilemma.  At this point, I think everyone is pro e-prescribing even if it’s simply for the benefit of reducing errors.  But, I think the original intent of the solutions were to do a lot more than reduce errors.

The hope was to improve adherence (which I think may have been too lofty).  The idea was that e-prescribing would reduce the abandonment rate at the pharmacy.  I’m not sure picking up a prescription is the same as taking a prescription.  And, taking a prescription once isn’t the same as staying adherent over time.

Another hope was that the use of e-prescribing would drive formulary compliance and increase generic utilization.  The idea was that putting this information in the hands of the prescriber would allow them to make more real-time decisions that were aligned with the consumer’s interests (i.e., lower out-of-pocket spend).  The latest report doesn’t seem to support this at all.  It also echos my prior posts about whether e-prescribing was aligned with pharma at all.

Fewer than half (47.5%) of the 200 PCPs polled said they have access to formulary information when e-prescribing, and fewer than a third said they have access to prior authorization (31.0%) or co-pay (29.5%) information. Among physicians with formulary information access, that information was available 61.1% of the time and was said to be accurate 68.6% of the time.

Physicians with an EMR (54.1%) were more likely to have access to formulary information than physicians without an EMR (29.6%). And differences were seen depending on the EHR vendor: Allscripts physicians (32.2%) were less likely to have access to this information than “All Other” software suppliers (60.5%), Epic physicians (62.5%) and eClinicalWorks (68.8%). 

Another big effort that e-prescribing and integration with EMR was going to have was to push utilization management (UM) to the POP (point of prescribing) rather than having the pharmacy and the PBM dealing with it.  I never really thought this would work.  If the information isn’t there or they don’t trust the information, the prescriber isn’t going to want to deal with this.  It’s already work that they let their staff handle and isn’t something they want to deal with during the patient encounter.

While e-prescribing is definitely here to stay and becoming the norm, the question is whether it’s creating simply a typed “clean” Rx to transmit electronically or whether it’s actually an intelligent process which will enable better care.

Given multiple studies and surveys recently about transparency in healthcare billing and the general push with Health Reform to drive to outcomes, I’m not sure the “dumb” system process can be a sustainable value proposition.


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