2013 – A Year of Surprises

In the blink of an eye, a New Year has appeared and with it the need to look into our crystal ball (or is it a magic 8 ball) to make our annual predictions for the healthcare IT sector. Personally, I find this to be one of the more interesting and seriously fun parts of being an analyst.

Be forewarned, we’ve seen enough mealy-mouth, water-downed predictions as of late that simply state the obvious to last a lifetime. So let’s crack a few eggs and make some stretch predictions shall we. (Note: each analyst has contributed a prediction or two, which is noted).

1) Structured Data will Remain Gold Standard in 2013 – Cora
Despite Watson and all the buzz about mining unstructured data, the only data that will be analyzed in volume in 2013 will remain structured data. Forget about the 80% of health data that is unstructured. Simple key-value matching will continue but robust, rigorous pattern matching, NLP, etc, will have to wait.

2) The Need to Address Data Quality Moves to Forefront - Cora
Data quality issues (DQ) will become increasingly visible as more providers wonder why their clinical data is such garbage. Providers will be shocked they need to invest in DQ specialists/departments/processes (along with the security to support them).

3) Many ACOs Come to an “OMG, What Have We Done” Moment - Rob
For the first half of the year healthcare organizations (HCOs) will be all buzzy implementing, on paper, gain-sharing ACOs. By Independence Day these same HCOs will begin figuring out it is hard and expensive to set up an ACO and that their back office financial management tools are inadequate. By the end of 2013, just two years away from Risk Assumption ACOs (RAACOs) HCOs will take one of three paths: 1) realize ACOs carry all the risk and more of HMOs and bow-out; or 2) scramble to purchase and implement complex financial management software; or 3) cash-out and sell themselves to a payer.

4) Several HIE Vendors Pack Bags & Leave – John
Virtually all of the federal funds distributed to States to stand-up their statewide HIEs has been allocated. Without that federal largess we will begin seeing some vendors exit the HIE market. Who will they be? Think large companies with lots of brand equity and close ties to lobbyists but with only modest healthcare experience. Those vendors that remain must now contend with upping their value proposition beyond simple information  exchange (Direct Secure Messaging will take over that task). Some of the weaker HIE players with limited resources will be looking for a buyer.

5) HIE Market Growth Begins to Slow -John
Over the last several years the HIE market has been growing at a blistering pace well in excess of 30%. That growth will begin to taper off ever so slightly in 2013, say 18-22% CAGR as all who have adopted a solution continue down the arduous path deployment and on-ramping ambulatory providers to extract value from their HIE platform.

6) Despite Strong Growth in Direct Secure Messaging (DSM), Fax Isn’t Dead Yet - Brian
Volume growth in use of DSM sent via health information service providers (HISPs) in 2013 will exceed 100% driven primarily by integrated delivery networks (IDNs) seeking efficiencies and referrals. Despite this impressive sounding growth, far less than 5% of all care transitions will use DSM by end of 2013. And don’t forget, numbers lie. Much will be reported in 2013 on the growth in absolute number of secure email IDs issued by HISPs, but the majority of those accounts will remain inactive.

7) EHR Source Code Subpoenaed -Rob
We will see our first EHR software source code subpoenaed in a malpractice lawsuit this year – the developer will be named as a co-defendant.

8) Chorus Grows Louder, Politicians Weigh-in and MU Program is Put in Stasis – John
HITECH & meaningful use (MU) have done their job, by and large as EHR adoption and use has swelled dramatically throughout the healthcare sector. But there is also a dark-side. Deploying software so that it is effectively used takes time. Unfortunately, the provisions of ARRA do not allow for time to be taken, which is leading to a rapid cram-down of EHRs and associated MU requirements on clinicians. Early signs of a backlash began appearing in 2012. That backlash will come into full bloom in 2013 leading to Congressional hearings and ultimately someone in the White House being forced to hit the pause button on MU requirements.

9) Quantified Self (QS) Crosses Over into Healthcare – Naveen
The peripheral, biometric, consumer market is starting to bloom. In addition to completely new products and companies, we will see development of more flexible platforms driven by a focus on open APIs. Employers will start to incentivize the QS movement as part of their benefits programs. There will also be a shift from wellness-only into light medical use of these devices for such things as physical therapy/rehabilitation programs, mood tracking, sleep tracking and simple pain reporting.

10) Providers Take Interest in Health & Wellness Solutions – John 3
Payers and employers are the traditional markets for health and wellness solutions. But in 2013, those healthcare organizations (HCOs) that are moving towards capitated care models will markedly step up their interest in and adoption of these solutions. This will also result in new hires (health coaches, nutritionists, etc.) as clinicians balk at taking on added responsibility.

11) Emerging Conflicts Over Patient Generated Health Data - Cora
Conflicts will emerge between EHR data and user-generated health data.  Early adopting QS-type patients (see prediction 10) will be bringing in their mobile-app-generated data to their doctors. Majority of doctor(s) will declare that the data doesn’t match up to their records and will not accept it. Resulting conflicts over how/if to get this data into the medical record will ensue.

12) Patient Experience Begins Being Factored In to Treatment – John 3
With increasing attention on patient/customer satisfaction and need to improve adherence to treatment plans, innovative HCOs will begin adopting mHealth solutions that enable patients to track, in real-time, their treatment experience. Treatment plans will be modified “on-the-fly” based on these “experiences” to improve adherence.

Of course there were many other predictions that we mulled over that ultimately landed on the cutting room floor. What remains are predictions that we felt will create the greatest disturbances or ripples in the industry. Predictions that are generally not all that obvious or maybe it is just that there are not many who wish to state such in writing (we’re not shy).

Whatever the case may be, these are our predictions. we’ll stick by them unless someone has some incredibly brilliant argument as to why we have it completely wrong (that’s what comments are for).

So have at it everyone, are we on target, or will we completely miss the mark in 2013?

 

 

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Experiences at Cleveland Clinic with HealthVault

cclinicThe local Cleveland paper published a good article today that highlights the work between Cleveland Clinic and Microsoft HealthVault.  Back in November, these two announced a joint agreement to work together to test the efficacy of using consumers’ self-reported, biometric readings for improving care delivery.  In this case, Cleveland Clinic customers who are managing a chronic condition, e.g., hypertension, take periodic measurements that are fed, by way of the HealthVault repository to Cleveland Clinic’s EPIC EMR.  Once in EPIC, the physician can track and trend readings and make adjustments to treatment plan as warranted. The article gives a real world example of a truck driver, who is one of 30 early users of the service, to manage his blood pressure.

Couple of key points can be pulled from the article.

1) The consumer appreciates the flexibility to take the needed measurements when it is convenient to them and their schedule.  Might such flexibility and convenience lead to better compliance and better outcomes?  Maybe AHRQ needs to do a study on that as part of their Comparative Effectiveness largess.

2) The physician likes the ability to more proactively manage a patient’s chronic condition with use of near real-time data (at least real-time compared to standard practice).  Might this lead to better care at a lower cost through better dosing of medications and other modifications to treatment plan?

But also raises some questions:

Does the use of such systems impact payment/reimbursement schedules?  Is payment reform required to insure that a physician/hospital is reimbursed for such services that typically fall outside the domain of most payment schedules? This remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks for any telehealth program.

How does this type of system fit into the workflow of what is already a hectic schedule for most practicing physicians? Is it primarily the responsibility of the nursing staff to do the day to day monitoring and reporting and bring the physician in when readings exceed certain pre-defined limits, or is it left to the physician to oversee all aspects?  Many physicians I talk to tell me time and time again, not enough attention is paid to process and workflow.  Incorporating such a system into a practice can significantly alter the care delivery model, thus special attention needed here.

In addition to chronic care cases, what about episodic care?  Such a telehealth system may dramatically drop re-admissions after a given procedure if a patient is monitored post-discharge.  Yes, we all know how important it is to address chronic care and compliance as these are huge cost drivers to healthcare today, but re-admissions is also a significant cost and should not be overlooked.

Arguably, the best part of the article is the consumer’s apparent feeling of empowerment.  They are no longer a bystander in their care but an active participant. They are no longer waiting for a doctor’s availability or complying to a clinic’s schedule but are self-reporting based on their availability and need.  Lastly, knowing that the care provider is actively monitoring one’s progress may result in a subtle form of pressure that helps keep the consumer in compliance.

This is the future care model.  What boggles are minds is why it has taken so long for us to get here.

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Cleveland Clinic & HealthVault Unite

hvdevicelabelIn an interesting twist, Cleveland Clinic and Microsoft’s HealthVault Grp announced a partnership this morning to address chronic disease management. The interesting twist is that Cleveland Clinic was the showcase beta customer for Google Health, which was announced by Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt earlier this year at HIMSS. Like their counterpart in Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who was part of the initial Google Health public roll-out in May and who has since also established a link to HealthVault for their PatientSite users, Cleveland Clinic is taking an agnostic approach to the major platform plays with this agreement.

The Cleveland Clinic-HealthVault announcement is distinctive in that it focuses on chronic disease management, via telehealth, through use of HealthVault’s unique Connection Center. With some 50 devices from 9 vendors, the Connection Center allows the consumer to upload device data (e.g., glucose readings, heart rate, blood pressure, weight, peak flow, etc.) directly to their HealthVault account. In the Cleveland Clinic project, which began last week (Nov. 3rd), uploaded biometric data from HealthVault compliant devices will automatically be pushed to Cleveland Clinic’s EMR and subsequently exposed to the physician for patient tracking and follow-up.

Had a call this morning with Microsoft and one this afternoon with Cleveland Clinic who both shared further details on this announcement:

A target of 460 Cleveland Clinic patients will participate representing three distinct disease categories; hypertension, diabetes and heart failure. The roll-out is across the Cleveland Clinic Integrated Delivery Network (IDN) and not just hospital patients. Clearly, they are focusing on the big chronic disease categories that result in huge costs that many believe better telehealth monitoring can mitigate.

  • Hypertension patients, of which there are 400, will measure blood pressure only.
  • Diabetes patients, of which there will be 30, will use five devices to measure glucose, blood pressure, peakflow, pedometer and weight.
  • Heart Failure patients, the remaining 30, will use four devices to measure blood pressure, peakflow, pedometer and weight.

Pilot will initially be for an extremely short 90 days. Cleveland Clinic expects to have all patients active within 4-6 weeks. Not sure what they can accomplish in 90 days, maybe Cleveland is just hedging their bets to see if patients actually comply with the prescribed measurement and upload regime. Assuming that all goes well, one can guarantee that this pilot will be extended for at least a year, if not longer, as that is the only way they will be able to provide some demonstrable results that are publishable (something that Microsoft emphasized) and ultimately may influence future legislation (e.g., CMS funding), health plan reimbursement (P4P), and broader adoption among other Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs).

Devices are being provided for free to trial participants. The only requirement, beyond the obvious willingness to diligently take their measurements, is that they have a Windows-based (XP SP2) computer and broadband access. Unfortunately, many heart disease patients are among the elderly and it is questionable as to how many have this capability. Still, the point here is to demonstrate, not solve all the problems and it is a good start.

Cleveland Clinic is training patients on the use of the devices(s), and data upload process to HealthVault, that is subsequently pushed to Cleveland Clinic’s EMR. Part of that training includes clearly notifying the patient when a particular reading should prompt a call to their doctor or even 911. Along with providing the device(s) and training, the physician will prescribe to the patient their measurement protocol (e.g., 2x/day, 3x/week, etc.) unique to that individual and the condition they are managing. Patients trust their doctors so receiving the package directly from their physician during an office visit makes a lot of sense and should encourage use and hopefully compliance. It will be interesting to see how compliant patients are to the prescribed compliance regiment as this is often a critical stumbling block. Will incentives be required?

Cleveland Clinic put in the upfront effort to understand how best to incorporate this new data stream into a physician’s workflow to minimize the burden. Specifically, the physician will receive a weekly notice notifying them that their patient(s) biometric data is ready for review. One click later and the physician is in the EMR reviewing their patient’s data for that past week. Prior to this pilot, Cleveland has experimented with other telehealth systems, but none were able to provide this level of integration with the core EMR system (always a stand-alone, silo’d operation) and thus saw little adoption among physicians. This is absolutely critical! Having spoken to many physicians about the success, and most often failure of telehealth initiatives, it nearly always circles back to lack of true integration to existing practices/workflow. Looks like this pilot tackles that issue head-on.

So what is the Business Case?

Wrapped up my conversation with Cleveland Clinic’s CIO, Dr. Martin Harris, (thanks again Martin for your time) by asking him: So what is the business case for this initiative? He outlined two areas where they see a benefit to Cleveland Clinic:

Service Case: In moving to this model of combining telehealth with traditional in-office visits they intend to completely re-design the office visit resulting in a better, more engaged and customer friendly process. This process will lead to higher customer service ratings, customer recruitment and higher customer retention – all important top-line metrics. They also see a service case for the physician as such a “system” will allow the physician to deliver a higher level of proactive care with their patients. Its all about market differentiation, distinguishing themselves in an increasingly crowded market – one that will only get more competitive.

Outcomes Case: One of the objectives of the pilot is to see if Cleveland Clinic can consistently improve the outcomes/health of its chronic care patients that will result in fewer hospital readmissions and/or complications. If all goes as planned, Cleveland Clinic believes that it will be able to use these positive results to request better reimbursement schedules (more income) from health plans. This certainly makes logical sense, but to date, health plans and CMS have been reluctant to support such programs – more of a wait and see approach. Hopefully, Cleveland Clinic will start showing some impressive results in a year or so and get those health plans on-board.

Final Note:

A couple of weeks ago I poked Microsoft about their lack of support for the telehealth consortium, the Continua Alliance. Sean Nolan responded stating a primary reason was Microsoft’s desire to move quickly (consortia always seem to move at a snail’s pace). Looks like that has paid-off as Google Health and Dossia cannot, today, support such capabilities as demonstrated above, though they are on the path having joined the Continua Alliance and Google demonstrated modest capabilities at the recent Connected for Health Symposium.

Looking ahead, we forecast 2009 to be a year of pilots which begin to demonstrate the utility of the platform model (Dossia, Google Health, & HealthVault) in support of telehealth and how telehealth technology and practices are best integrated into existing clinician workflow. Look to 2010 to see actual reimbursement models and P4P programs begin to take shape in support of promotion and adoption of telehealth.

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