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Cerner Impressions: Beginning Signs of PHM Maturation

by Matt Guldin | June 02, 2017

Two weeks ago, we attended the 2017 Cerner Collaboration Forum, which combined the Population Health Summit with three other annual events (Ambulatory Summit, CareAware Summit, and Cerner Physician Community). This larger single summit resulted in a broader representation of provider organizations and other attendee. The “power” of combining these various events also reflects the growing convergence of technologies, workflows, and practices that are necessary as providers, payers, and other stakeholders further shift to valued-based care.

Here are four key impressions of the event.

PHM presentations have matured. The client population health management (PHM) presentations employed a case study approach and included results from deploying various HealtheIntent solutions. This was a change from the past two years, which focused more on implementation issues and presented limited utilization and outcomes data. Early adopters of HealtheIntent now have two or three years of experience using some of the solutions (HealtheRegistries, HealtheCare) and have started to really focus on operational and tactical-related issues, ranging from integration with transition management processes to population health maintenance to care team workflows.

Starting a provider-owned health plan is not for the meek. Bill Copeland from Deloitte Consulting spoke about research on 224 provider-owned plans with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. Deloitte has identified four success factors for these types of plans.

Core line of business. It is a significant percentage of their overall payer mix and the HCO has lengthy experience in treating those patients prior to enrolling them in a provider-owned health plan.
Tenure. The 10 most profitable plans were all more than years old.
Scale. Plans need more than 100,000 members in order to have an adequate risk pool.
Market Share. In their market, they rank at least second or third in market share, with the ability to buy services out of network at reasonable costs.

What really caught my attention was that it took a minimum of five years for a new provider-owned health plan to become profitable, with significant losses realized in the first two or three years. This should them significant pause to health systems with constrained cash flows.

Provider demand for APIs is strong, but they have questions. A half-day event focused on FHIR and APIs preceded the summit. Provider interest is strong – Cerner has more than 1,100 applications in its sandbox, and this number is increasing rapidly – but a few key questions remain.

Security or convenience? Which of these two attribute will patients demand more of, and what tradeoffs are they willing to make in the process?
Vendor role? Providers and potentially patients need more guidance and intelligence on the information brought in via APIs especially in regards to the variety and veracity of the data. Using this data to provide analytic insights is still a bit down the road.
Increasing utility? Providers ultimately want API-supplied information put into their flow charts/templates within their EMR and where else appropriate, with little manual intervention.
Who regulates? There’s a large degree of ambiguity at the federal level as to which agency or agencies (FDA, FTC, HHS, etc.) will regulate privacy, security and competition-related issues. This has caused some hesitation among providers and vendors.

Health IT is an enabler, but more is needed for community-level change. A panel on Healthy Nevada, a five-year partnership between Cerner and the city of Nevada, Mo., discussed the lessons learned and impact of the partnership.

Since 2012, Vernon County has moved from 88 to 60 in Missouri’s county health rankings (as updated annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). HealtheIntent gives the community a single source of community-wide data and access to real-time public health information, which is used to segment the population and begin to employ ‘hot-spotting’ interventions.

What struck me during the panel and in a few conversations I had afterward, though, was that, despite the desire to connect healthy lifestyles, creating a public health or health system-led program simply will not work without broader engagement with various civic organizations, especially in rural areas or among certain population segments. Cerner and a number of other vendors are starting to place a greater emphasis on consumer and caregiver engagement functionality – but as our recent Care Management Market Trends Report suggests, there is much progress to be made.

Will small providers be left behind? This year’s Cerner Collaboration Forum marked the beginning of a maturation of provider attendees who have been on the HealtheIntent platform (HealtheRecord, HealtheRegistries, HealtheCare) for a few years now. Early adopters are moving away from implementation-related issues and starting to fine-tune how these solutions support specific care management and care coordination use cases and workflows.

Combining all the events in a single one also provided a broader scope of attendees. We received feedback from a wider array of providers, including smaller customers who still have not made a substantial PHM investment or others who were reevaluating earlier investments in point solutions and looking for a more comprehensive “go forward” data strategy and IT investment.

The question is whether most small to midsize providers are willing and able to make the necessary PHM investments including in Health IT moving ahead forward. The Cerner event did not really cover this topic and there are mixed signals in the market place right now about this market segment right now including when PHM buying activity may begin to pick up in earnest.

Stay up to the minute.

“Chilmark were one of the first industry watchers to recognize the importance of population health and are still one of the most sophisticated in their apprecition of what is going to be needed to transform health and care.”

-Former SVP of PHM at Cerner