How Convergence Benefits Rising-Risk Patients

By Mark A. Caron, FACHE, CHCIO, Geneia CEO

No matter how you look at it, the toll of diabetes and prediabetes is staggering whether you’re the patient, the primary care physician, the employer or the health plan.

That’s why everyone involved is motivated to better identify, manage, engage and educate not only people already diagnosed with diabetes but also everyone at risk of becoming diabetic.

Patients with a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome – commonly referred to as prediabetes – are one of the cohorts of rising-risk patients everyone wants to identify as early as possible and then engage them in their health to prevent progression to chronic illness. This is quite the challenge given that the overwhelming majority (90%) of prediabetics do not know they have it.

Earlier identification and management of rising-risk patients is one of the primary reasons payers, physicians and employers are increasingly using a shared analytics solution. Predictive analytical models are able to identify which cohorts of people are likely to become sick in the next 12 to 24 months. But perhaps more importantly, it allows those who interact with and care for prediabetic patients to easily collaborate and align around shared goals and purpose, effectively intervening and engaging patients in a way that improves outcomes and quality of life.

Let me show you our vision of how healthcare providers, payers and employers work together to improve the health and quality of life for people with metabolic syndrome.

The convergence of payers, providers and employers means greater alignment, collaboration and personalized, patient-centered care that improves the health, satisfaction and quality of life of patients like Lucy.

PATIENT

Meet Lucy*. She is 42, a mother of two teenagers and a part-time caregiver for her elderly father. Through her employer, Lightning Laser, Lucy has been insured by Allegiant Health Plan for the past three years.

Lucy learned of her prediabetes diagnosis last year during her annual physical. In preparation for her physical, her physician ordered a number of tests, including a fasting blood glucose test.

In the year since her diagnosis, a number of people have been working with her and behind the scenes to help prevent her from progressing to diabetes. All of these people are using a shared analytics and insights platform to enhance their individual and collective effectiveness.

PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN

Lucy’s primary care physician is Dr. Todd Becker. For the past 10 years, Dr. Becker has been a part of Granite Physicians. The practice has a value-based contract with Allegiant Health that incents Dr. Becker and his colleagues to complete and improve HEDIS® measures such as measuring BMI, checking blood pressure and ordering fasting blood glucose tests for adult patients.

As a part of the pre-visit planning, Dr. Becker viewed Lucy’s information in a shared analytics platform. He saw she was on Allegiant Health’s list of members at risk for metabolic syndrome and ordered the fasting blood glucose test a year ago that showed Lucy, in fact, has metabolic syndrome. (See section below about the payer HEDIS® director.)

Since Lucy’s diagnosis, Dr. Becker and his team have used the analytics platform to monitor her progress on her care plan, including annual measurement of her BMI and nutritional counseling. Lucy’s referral to Allegiant’s health education program was done within the platform.

PAYER HEDIS® DIRECTOR

Jaime is the HEDIS® director at Allegiant Health Plan. At a population level, Jaime works to cost-effectively improve her plan’s HEDIS® performance by simplifying quality measure tracking for network providers including Lucy’s physician, Dr. Becker. For the past three years, her plan has focused on closing HEDIS® measures related to diabetes, including measuring BMI, testing blood glucose levels and blood pressure screening.

Three years ago, Allegiant licensed an analytics platform to, in part, support Jaime’s work. As a result, Jaime has been able to undertake efforts to identify subpopulations of members with gaps in care, many of whom also are the plan’s rising-risk patients. For example, she reviewed BMI trends to generate lists of members at risk for or with a metabolic syndrome diagnosis, which were then shared with Allegiant’s value-based care practices. Granite Physicians’ list from 15 months ago included Lucy.

PAYER POPULATION HEALTH CLINICIAN

Until a year ago, Judy was a disease manager for Lucy’s health plan, Allegiant. Traditionally, her plan’s care management program focused on chronically-ill and catastrophically-ill members. The plan’s increasing emphasis on value-based care and managing the population rather than just the sickest of the sick, means care managers – now called population health clinicians – have an expanded role that includes identifying and engaging rising-risk patients and improving key HEDIS® quality measures in the plan’s value-based contracts.

Judy is Lucy’s population health clinician. Using the analytics platform, Judy is able to monitor Lucy’s progress on her care plan. By viewing Lucy’s record in the platform, Judy knows her health education colleague has already reached out to Lucy and enrolled her in the right program. When Judy contacts Lucy, she affirms her participation and answers her questions about metabolic syndrome treatment and prognosis.

EMPLOYER

Lucy’s employer is Lightning Laser. The vice of human resources, Chase, has been using the analytics platform for the past three years. At the outset, he focused on out-of-network utilization and preventable emergency department visits. More recently, he has used the platform to identify cohorts of rising-risk employees and learned a sizeable percentage of his employees has diabetes and an even greater percentage has prediabetes or is at-risk for prediabetes.

Armed with this information, Chase has been working with Allegiant Health Plan to offer virtual health education and nutritional counseling programs, one of which included Lucy, and semi-annual onsite biometric screenings of BMI, fasting and non-fasting blood glucose, blood pressure and more. Lucy was able to take advantage of the onsite biometric screening this year. Her biometric information was uploaded to the analytics platform so the professionals monitoring her care plan know she is still on track.

 

I know firsthand those of us who work in healthcare have always wanted to help Lucy and others like her be one of the 30 percent of prediabetics who do not progress to diabetes. For the first time, all of the people who interact with Lucy and have the opportunity to help her adopt a healthier lifestyle and engage in her health – her physician and his team, the population health clinician and HEDIS® director at her health plan, and her employer – have a tool that simplifies collaboration and coordination in a way that directly benefits Lucy. The convergence of payers, providers and employers means greater alignment, collaboration and personalized, patient-centered care that improves the health, satisfaction and quality of life of patients like Lucy.

*Lucy is fictional and not intended to represent any specific person. This information is provided for illustrative purposes only.

This post was originally written as the third in a series of sponsored guest blog posts on our Convergence conference blog. 

Stay up to the minute.

Did You Know?

Cerner Health Conference 2018: Interest in PHM Solutions Remain ‘Healthe’

By Matt Guldin and John Moore

Recently, we and 12,000+ others attended the Cerner Health Conference 2018, where the theme was “Smarter Care.” Overall, the event focused on building on top of the EHR, while much of the floor space and conversations focused on population health and revenue cycle.

Cerner Smarter Care CHC18

Key Takeaways

  • New CEO, Brent Shafer, is not the visionary that Neal Patterson was, but he is highly focused on customer success and operations. Expect Cerner to become more acquisitive (Lumeris) and pursue partnerships such as that with Salesforce.
  • Rising client interest in population health management (PHM) solutions – Cerner’s HealtheIntent platform – but uncertain timeframe as to when these solutions will truly scale across client base.
  • The event reinforced our view that Cerner is well positioned to capture a growing wallet share from its hospital & health system customers over time as well as adding new potential customers (e.g., payers, state Medicaid agencies, self-insured employers) via its HealtheIntent platform.

HealtheIntent platform

For several years now, Cerner has been focusing on moving beyond the EHR with its HealtheIntent PHM platform. At CHC18, Cerner was doubling down on this bet with the message “Smarter Care” with numerous sessions and a significant amount of exhibit space dedicated to this theme and platform. Today, Cerner has signed ~160 clients of which ~90 are currently live.

HealtheIntent is well positioned as an EHR agnostic solution that will give Cerner the ability to invest resources into developing solutions that think beyond the hyper-competitive zero-sum game of EHR contracts. Two major flagship HealtheIntent customers are also two major Epic customers (Advocate and Geisinger) and there is a clear opportunity to work with these customers to better integrate Cerner’s evolving platform with Epic’s similarly expanding universe of products.

A key challenge for any PHM vendor is developing strong services capabilities to assist clients in extracting the highest value from their PHM solution deployments. In August, Cerner made a significant investment in Lumeris, a company with a strong services offering that Cerner will leverage.

Integration with Salesforce provides Cerner with a strong competitive advantage

In line with the company’s shift toward consumer-focused healthcare, Cerner is partnering with Salesforce to offer providers an integrated patient engagement solution. Through this partnership, HealtheIntent data, which is collected from numerous sources, will feed directly into Salesforce’s Health Cloud.

Once the data is in Health Cloud, from within their EHR a clinician can quickly identify patient populations based on various criteria via a queried search. Once identified, a campaign can be initiated. Cerner plans to launch this product in 2019, and will be the only EHR company to have Salesforce directly embedded in its EHR and HealtheIntent workflows.

Revenue cycle still in flux

Cerner understands the importance of getting revenue cycle (billing) software right. Cerner has penetrated, to varying degrees, about 40% of its hospital clients with billing software, but those are mostly small facilities. Cerner’s software still appears visually outdated and lacking functionality, particularly for ambulatory practices.

One need only walk through the CHC18 exhibit area of third-party software vendors to see the demand for RCM solutions that work in the Cerner environment. Roughly 40 percent of all vendors were RCM vendors. Clearly, Cerner is missing out on fully capitalizing on this opportunity.

RevWorks interest robust, ITWorks continues to grow

Cerner is seeing strong demand for its RevWorks offering among smaller hospitals, and the firm is still hiring aggressively to support growth into 2019. Cerner has about 100 RevWorks clients, compared to 30-35 two years ago. One of the main reasons for Cerner’s early success in outsourced revenue cycle solutions is that the product comes with a demonstrable return on investment for clients with specific targets outlined before any deal is signed.

The ITWorks business is growing but acquiring clients at a slower pace than RevWorks.

DoD/VA

Now that MHS Genesis is up and running across the first wave of an initial 4 sites, the company took important lessons learned for future Department of Defense (DoD) rollouts as well as Veteran Affairs (VA) deployments. Cerner noted that the VA is not yet in the implementation phase as it is currently planning the largest install in the industry’s history.

Of these two massive installs, the one at the VA bears watching closely. A significant portion of veterans receive their care via Tricare (local healthcare providers under contract to VA). How Cerner drives interoperability across multiple venues of care nationwide, the potential role of HealtheIntent, the embedding of telehealth functionality and the list goes on will all be pressure-tested by the VA. The results of that pressure-testing will, in time, roll out to the broader Cerner client base.

“Where the company has truly led the EHR market is with HealtheIntent. Rather than a walled-garden approach, Cerner’s HealtheIntent is architected for a more open future and its capabilities continue to expand even though market has been tepid. Cerner accurately saw the future and invested early for the inevitable move to value based care.”

Looking Forward

Cerner has been an innovative company since its founding. While not all innovations have been a success (much to some clients’ chagrin), the company has nonetheless made progress and continues to push forward. Their ambulatory EHR is gaining significant traction with larger IDN clients, and RCMwhile not there yetis closing the gap with competing solutions.

Where the company has truly led the EHR market is with HealtheIntent. Rather than a walled-garden approach, Cerner’s HealtheIntent is architected for a more open future and its capabilities continue to expand even though the market has been tepid. Cerner accurately saw the future and invested early for the inevitable move to value-based care.

Visionary leadership made Cerner what it is today. Hopefully, the company’s new leadership fully appreciates this key attribute. Only time will tell if the future focus of Cerner is operational efficiency at the expense of vision. While operational improvements are common in a maturing market, our hope is that Cerner continues to look beyond the near term.

MEDITECH Look Ahead: Building on Steady Progress

Key Takeaways from MEDITECH’s Physician and CIO Forum 2018:
  • MEDITECH is moving its customer base to Expanse, the latest iteration of their EHR
  • Expanse has significant inducements for hospitals seeking to support value-based care and be more interoperable

Photo: Courtesy of MEDITECH

Last week, we had a chance to attend MEDITECH’s Physician and CIO Forum, an event the company uses to give its customer executives a look forward.

The more concrete developments described over the course of this two-day event include:

Voice Support

A lot of attendees were talking about a new capability planned for Expanse called the Virtual Assistant. The idea is to voice-enable aspects of the physician’s workflow. Even as MEDITECH, and all the other major EHR vendors, slowly improve the interface design of their EHRs, users still want fewer clicks and swipes and less data entry. MEDITECH, seeing the rapid adoption of voice in consumer markets, wants its users to be able to retrieve results or review charts hands-free. It indicated that it is experimenting with this Nuance-sourced technology at a customer site with a phased roll-out planned once it gains more experience. Sometime next year it will begin work on using voice in physician documentation as well.

Interoperability and FHIR

MEDITECH came out strongly in support of FHIR. It has three live customers who have implemented FHIR servers that support REST-style access. MEDITECH facilities will soon be able to offer FHIR-based access on the CommonWell network. It is also looking at more complex transactions from Project Argonaut to support patient questionnaires and scheduling that will rely on write access to MEDITECH EHRs. You can read our full analysis of their support for API access in the MEDITECH profile in our App Store report.

Mobile developers will soon have access to a new capability called MEDITECH Greenfield to develop patient- or clinician-facing apps. It will serve up a set of APIs based on MU’s common clinical dataset with plans to add other data types down the road.

Clinical Decision Support

MEDITECH will rely on CDS Hooks to offer Stanson Health’s content for a variety of purposes. It will be used to push some of the most common care gap alerts. It will also push recommendations to physicians based on the Choosing Wisely campaign.

MEDITECH’s approach to introducing new functionality allows its customer to keep the lights on and support the onrushing changes to U.S. healthcare.

Population Health Management

MEDITECH’s PHM story is a little clearer than it was this time last year. The company’s collaboration with Arcadia.io means that its customers will soon have access to an aggregated patient record of MEDITECH and non-MEDITECH EHRs married to paid claims. Customers will get access to a new suite of dashboards and reports that provide risk scores, care gaps, attribution, utilization, and costs on a per patient or per cohort basis. The company plans to roll this out to early adopters before the middle of next year.

Patient Engagement

The company talked a lot about its new downloadable app for patients: MHealth. This app will permit patients to manage a lot of administrative and payment tasks in connections with office visits. It also will offer questionnaires that will help with reconciling meds and allergies to the clinical record in the EHR.

Upshot

MEDITECH hospitals are under the same pressures to adapt to value-based care that the rest of the industry continues to struggle with. Many of the company’s actions over the next year will help them in different ways. MEDITECH’s approach to introducing new functionality allows its customers to keep the lights on and broadly support the onrushing changes to U.S. healthcare.

Opening New Front Doors to Care: Reflections From Bridge to Pop Health East

Bridge To Pop Health logoFor all the promise of patient engagement technology such as chatbots, wearables, self-management apps, and passive sensors, engagement is still a high-touch process. But just because cutting-edge technology isn’t part of the everyday workflow doesn’t mean engagement hasn’t been moving forward.

As our recent Population Health Management Market Trends Report concluded, technology adoption is most advanced in PHM’s early stages (risk stratification) and later stages (performance analysis). Producing generic care plans and determining outcomes and goals is mostly automated, though personalizing plans tends to require human intervention.

Engagement often happens the old-fashioned way – in person – whether in a clinical setting, the patient’s home, or an outpatient facility. This is especially true for high-risk and high-acuity patients with a complex set of social determinants of health (SDoH) that inhibit access to care. When interventions don’t take place in person, they often happen over the phone – the speaking-into-a-receiver part, that is, and not the sending-a-text, using-an-app, or watching-a-video parts.

The Bridge to Pop Health East conference in Boston, with a heavy emphasis on strategies and tactics for healthcare providers, reinforced many of our conclusions about technology adoption in PHM workflows. The most mature case studies focused on the use of analytics for patient identification and program assessment. This is hardly surprising. PHM tends to be closely tied to value-based care initiatives that penalize providers for poor performance, so targeting the patients who are most likely to get better is a sound business decision. Engagement matters – but engagement with the right patients matters more.

Modest progress in using technology to improve patient engagement does not necessarily mean that population health management initiatives continue to approach engagement the same old way.

As a result, the examples of digitized patient engagement that did emerge from the conference were a bit closer to “fax machine” than “Star Trek tricorder” on the innovation continuum – though, to be fair, they did come with measurable outcomes.

  • Atrius Health gives patients tablets to complete behavioral health screenings in the waiting room prior to appointments. Screening data is then available in the EHR, both at the point of care and for retrospective analysis – Atrius collected 75,000 data points in 2017.
  • Sutter Health applied behavior change principles to its email and SMS messages that encourage patients to schedule appointments for wellness visits or preventive services rather than wait for the office to reach out. The system saw a fourfold increase in self-scheduled appointments, saving $4 in administrative costs each time.
  • HealthEast Care System automatically enrolled total joint replacement patients in an email- and SMS-based educational program that covered topics such as pre-surgery preparation (fasting and medication use, for example) and post-surgery recovery. Day-of-surgery cancellations dropped, as did readmissions; length of stay was shorter, too.
  • Mercy Virtual Health saw a 500% decrease in the annual costs associated with treating a high-risk cohort of 1,000 patients by shifting from inpatient care to a combination of onsite and remote patient monitoring.

Open DoorProviding more “front doors to care”

That said, modest progress in using technology to improve patient engagement does not necessarily mean that PHM initiatives continue to approach engagement the same old way.

Three years ago, we opined that healthcare is bad at engagement because it is bad at engagement, not because it lacks technology solutions that make patients want to engage. Part of the reason (which we admittedly did not articulate at the time) was that traditional healthcare systems offer only one “front door to care” – a door that, when opened, often leads to a seat in a waiting room seemingly designed to make you forget how long you will have to be there before you actually receive care. (Why else is there a pile of magazines and an HD TV?)

Over the last three years, new front doors to care have opened (or been opened further): Retail health, urgent care, telehealth, kiosks, employer-sponsored clinics, monitoring apps and devices, virtual assistants, and even the occasional drone. This broadens patients’ access to care. It also challenges traditional provider organizations to improve patient engagement – or risk losing market share and revenue.

To extend a metaphor, Bridge to Pop Health East also provided examples of new provider-based care team members knocking at the door of the patient’s home.

  • Sending paramedics on home visits in rural or underserved areas where visiting nurses or home health professionals are in short supply.
  • Referring recently hospitalized patients to a standalone community clinic that focuses predominantly on SDoH such as housing and food assistance.
  • Embedding community health workers in neighborhoods, not hospitals, to boost their visibility as well as expose them to common care gaps or other service needs.
  • Partnering with logistics firms to deliver and set up durable medical equipment in a patient’s home, allowing home health professionals to focus more on care delivery.

Moving further, informal conversations at the conference alluded to a host of non-clinical services: Rideshare, meal delivery, home repair (to address fall risks or ventilation concerns) – even housekeeping and landscaping. This points to the importance of accomplishing tasks and alleviating burdens that prevent patients from doing anything but focus on their health and wellness.

As providers move forward with PHM, they are taking a long, hard look at patient engagement. Much of the movement so far has been high-touch, essentially replicating traditional inpatient workflows in the outpatient or home setting.

The new care team roles don’t come with the same educational and licensure requirements as nurses and doctors, and healthcare continues to add jobs, but this growth will be hard to sustain. To be blunt, healthcare systems will no longer be able to throw people at the problem.

When this tipping point comes, forward-thinking PHM programs – those that open community clinics, allow paramedics to conduct home visits, and recommend a handyman to recent surgery patients – will start to turn to the technology that will further empower patients opening the new front doors to care and staff answering those doors. And then the virtual assistants, sensors, and robots will take their place in patient engagement workflows.

What’s All the Fuss – Some Thoughts on Recent News

At times it can be challenging to draft commentary on all that is happening across this industry sector. Rather than write short posts for each, I have created an amalgamation of commentary to some of the more newsworthy announcements.

Roche Acquires Flatiron

Wow, whoever knew that data could be such a valuable resource? Roche’s total spend to acquire Flatiron Health, a company focusing on the oncology space, was an eye-popping $2.1B. At first, I just could not fathom why anyone would spend that much for a relatively young company, that despite receiving a lot of VC funding early on, had little to show other than acquiring a modest oncology EHR.

Digging deeper however I learned that Flatiron was taking all that oncology data being collected in their EHR at physician offices across the country and cleansing and normalizing the data for clinical research purposes. Clean, normalized data is hard to come by in this industry and near impossible in oncology. Upon reflection, it now appears that Roche made an incredibly savvy move, one that will reap a handsome, long-term return on investment for the company.

Veritas Capital Acquires GE Healthcare’s IT Assets

This acquisition by Veritas is a tough one to understand. Over one billion dollars cash for assets that are dated and fading from the market? Granted, there is that installed base, there is that maintenance revenue to leverage and if you strip out virtually all SG&A costs you can make some money here, but is it really worth the trouble?

Veritas’s acquisition of Thomson-Reuters healthcare business that became Truven and later sold to IBM for roughly 2x what they paid shows that Veritas may know what they are doing. Maybe combining these GE assets with Verscend (formerly Verisk Health), also under Veritas, creates a 1+1=3 scenario but right now, just don’t see it.

ACHE Congress

Attended my first American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Congress two weeks ago. This is a very collegial event – warm and welcoming. Everyone is there to learn from one another through various educational sessions and seminars. It is also an event where I was a bit floored and probably under-dressed as virtually everyone was in suits and ties.

I attended several sessions, mostly on IT and innovation, to get a feel for how these senior-level executives think about these issues. Came away with a feeling that most really do not see what is coming. Along with all of those suits, one walks away with the impression that there is a certain level of calcification across this audience. Sadly, many will likely become the detritus of the digital train that will run right over them.

Apple & the Elusive Consumer-controlled Health Record

Have been taken aback by all the fuss being made about Apple’s recent announcements regarding its Health Record app. From the Twitterverse, to a wide range of trade mags, to blog posts, folks are making this app seem like the second coming – that this signals Apple’s ability to disrupt the industry.

Hold on folks.

While I certainly applaud Apple’s efforts and for that minority of the population using an Apple iOS device, this may be just what they are looking for, I can’t help but feel a deja vu moment.

Were not Google Health and MSFT’s Healthvault going to do the same thing – revolutionize healthcare, put patient’s health records into their control. We all know where that ended – in the dustbin of history.

I’ll stay cautiously optimistic, but will reserve excitement until that day when Android devices also have the same capability with both clinicians and citizens warmly embracing and using this functionality for their care and the care of loved ones.

Podcast: The Convergence of Providers and Payers

A critical path forward, fraught with challenges

 

Chilmark’s founder and president John Moore recently took some time to speak with the producer of the Relentless Health Value podcast, Stacey Richter, to discuss current strategies of one of the biggest trends in healthcare right now, provider-payer convergence.

The discussion begins by outlining how convergence is unique compared to the many other changes and initiatives sweeping through American healthcare. Most organizations enter into these partnerships as an answer to high administrative costs, the wave of recent consolidations, and unsuccessful provider-sponsored health plans. Most importantly, a successful convergence partnership requires a deep understanding and commitment to the local market served and trust between the organizations. John also outlines some of the challenges to creating successful partnerships and suggestions to overcome or avoid them entirely. For widespread convergence success, health care organizations (payers and providers) will need to systematize both the business processes and IT infrastructure to support data sharing and actionability.

Listen here and be sure to scroll to the end of this post to see some of the content discussed:

00:00 Convergence and the delivery of health care.
02:20 “How do we deliver greater value?”
03:00 Why establishing health plans within a provider organization is often not the best idea.
04:30 How you can get around needing prior authorization and subsequently cut costs.
05:50 The motivation for a payer and provider to form a partnership.
08:00 Why consolidation doesn’t necessarily drive down costs.
08:50 Payer-provider population health management.
09:20 Understanding where the patient might be going outside of the network to get their health care.
10:00 What does it take to be good at collaboration?
10:30 “What is the opportunity here?”
10:40 “Is there a level of trust between the payer and provider?”
18:00 Advice for payers looking to partner with providers.
18:50 Look for someone wanting to deliver high-value care.
19:30 “Trust, then verify.”
23:00 New and interesting innovations coming out of current convergences.
24:00 Things still being worked out in the market today.
25:25 The innovator’s dilemma.
26:30 “How do you scale quickly?”
27:20 “Is that scalable?”
30:20 The path forward for most markets in the United States.

Throughout the program, John and Stacey touch on several Chilmark publications, available here:

Tackling Prior Auth: New Solutions to Address Provider-Payer Friction

John emphasizes how prior authorization requirements are driving up admistrative costs for both providers and payers. Even outside of a full convergence partnership, both parties can begin to work together to reduce these costs and share the benefits.

2017 Healthcare Analytics  Market Trends Report

As a population health management becomes more essential to healthcare, robust solutions are incresingly important for sharing and analyzing data from several sources, including payers, for sustainable value-based reimbursements.

Free February (and March)! Assessing the Market for Condition Management Solutions

Stacey mentions how difficult, yet important successful behavioral change can be for improving overall health. This report covers both factors driving adoption plus profiles for leading solutions for a variety of conditions and users.

Bold Move: CVS’ Acqusition of Aetna – 5 Takeaways for Delivery Chain and Health IT

John talks a little about his predictions for the future of the CVS-Aetna healthcare offerings in the podcast, including how MinuteClinics might become the first point of care. Read more in our blog about MinuteClinics, the implications for Epic Systems’ EHR, and challenges both companies face as they ambitiously attempt to transform how Americans seek healthcare.

Key Takeaway

  • PHM products are maturing in spite of uncertainty about payment system.

The Chilmark Research 2018 Population Health Management Market Trends Report, long in development, will be released immediately before HIMSS in March. This report profiles 25 vendors and describes the technology landscape for enabling a population health management (PHM) strategy.

Why a PHM Market Trends Report Now?
We hesitated to release a report on this emerging market for several years. Until recently, most available solutions were not able to fully address the range of provider requirements for PHM. The earliest solutions focused on the needs of Healthcare Organizations (HCOs) caring for Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) patient panels. Over time, vendors added functionality to support bundles and private payer requirements requiring a good understanding of quality, costs, and utilization.

Another reason we held off with this report had to do with provider readiness. Healthcare delivery organizations needed time to incorporate these capabilities into their processes and workflows. The earliest HCO adopters of PHM relied on a variety of manual processes to conduct their PHM programs. Most HCOs lacked extensive experience with one or more of the constituent functional domains of PHM to fully utilize and benefit from the technology.

By early 2018 vendors had amassed significant experience building, managing, and supporting PHM enabling technology for providers and payers. Virtually all HCOs realize that PHM will be an increasingly important part of their operations and influence a significant percentage of their future revenue streams.

Virtually all HCOs realize that PHM will be an increasingly important part of their operations and influence a significant percentage of their future revenue streams.

Uncertainty About Value-Based Healthcare Makes Providers Pause
PHM’s close association with value-based care and payments cements its reputation as both a key strategy and technology enabler for transforming the U.S. healthcare system to achieve the goals of the Triple Aim. The PHM market’s growth closely mirrors the growth in value-based reimbursement (VBR). The pace of transformation to the payment system has not been smooth, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has sent mixed signals about its future in 2017. The business mandate for providers to embrace PHM slowed in the last 12-18 months. Provider concerns about revenue or market share losses have dampened enthusiasm for changing the fee-for-service (FFS) status quo. But the overall trend is moving in one direction: Away from FFS.

While uncertainty about the fate of value-based payments restrained provider’s embrace of PHM, the number of accountable care organizations (ACO), clinically integrated networks (CIN), and other risk-bearing programs continues to grow. Providers of all sizes have come to terms with the inevitable move to value-based contracting. ACOs will serve 10.5 million Medicare patients this year, a 17% increase over 2017. Delivering care to this expanding panel of patients requires providers, and in particular primary care providers, to organize themselves to make their PHM efforts successful. A variety of community based organizations, such as regional or state-level health information exchange organizations and to some extent payers, are also beginning to see the need to build and run PHM programs for, or in concert with, their provider partners.

Evolving Perception of PHM and the Four Technology Domains
PHM means different things to different people in 2018. Vendors built on products for pay-for-performance (P4P) programs to support CMS’ original set of ACO programs. Vendors, as a result of both organic development and acquisitions, now offer more PHM related functionality then they did a few years ago. While it is too early to say that PHM requires an established and fixed set of capabilities, the general outlines of the technology to enable a PHM strategy are broadly understood to fall into four technology domains:

  • Analytics
  • Care management
  • Patient engagement
  • Data aggregation

Most of the vendors in this report have special expertise with one or a few of these domains.

As recently as a few years ago, analytics products provided the key enabling function for most PHM programs. While this functionality has an indispensable role in PHM programs, its core functionality – cost and utilization analytics and clinical quality monitoring – is arguably the most mature aspect of existing PHM solutions. Attention has shifted somewhat to care management. The value proposition for care management stems from a perception that these workflows are the “tip of the spear” for PHM generally. Care management products are often the central tool for organizing and running PHM programs on a day-to-day basis. Payer-oriented solutions with case, utilization, and/or disease management legacy have transferable skills for clinically oriented PHM. These vendors are beginning to make inroads into provider markets. Care management capabilities are less mature than analytics but are undergoing the most rapid pace of change by vendors.

The least mature aspect of PHM from a functional standpoint is patient engagement. In most of the solutions described in this report, the care management product supports some level of interaction between patients and a care team, mostly relying on a patient portal or app. Telephonic interaction with patients still seems to be the dominant method for most providers.

Data aggregation and data source management are core competencies for PHM. They form the foundation for all of the other domains of PHM. Managing diverse data sources is complex in all PHM sub-markets and for every organization developing PHM programs. Transactions, messages, documents, and files flow in from different organizations. These sources need to be reconciled, deduped, monitored for quality, and have all of their various records matched to patients, providers, organizations, health plans, and contracts. Organizations express this data using a multitude of formats and vocabularies. Vendors must constantly monitor these transfers and streams for quality, timeliness, and completeness. Every vendor in this report has skills in this regard but they differ in the scale at which they can operate. The number of organizations and sources from which they can ingest and process data is shaping up to be an important differentiator for providers. This set of capabilities is marked by fairly mature technologies and techniques but they are being deployed against a rapidly expanding universe of health-related information.

EHR Vendors Do Not Own the PHM Market
No vendor today has anything like a “PHM Platform.” The largest EHR vendors aspire to develop such an offering and have the resources to pull it off. Hospitals and health system turn to these vendors for all of their PHM needs, but it is not unusual for them to assemble their own solution from a variety of vendors supplemented with internally developed capabilities.

But these offerings come with price tags with little appeal outside of the large HCOs. Independent physician practices, most with limited budgets and no significant IT development staffs, are more interested in turnkey capabilities from a single vendor. Often this means their EHR vendor, but just as often it means an independent vendor with a full range of PHM capabilities. While EHR vendors are fielding increasingly full-featured solutions, they have not cornered the market.

 

Bottom Line
Not all providers and payers have fully embraced value-based care and payments but the need for, and interest in, enabling solutions for PHM continues to grow. Armed with this report, providers can distinguish between the capabilities and services needed to help them meet their complex information and workflow needs for multi-disciplinary, multi-organizational teams striving to optimize the health of populations. This report will help providers sort through the different vendors and solutions in this confusing market.

Back to the Crystal Ball: Our 2018 Healthcare IT Market Predictions

couple looks into a crystal ballOur favorite post of the year is this one. As analysts, we come together with our propeller hats on to collectively look ahead at the key trends in the year to come in the healthcare sector. While there are any number of predictions one might make for this dynamic market, we will stick to what we know best: Healthcare IT and the broader issues that influence this sector. 

Following is our annual Baker’s Dozen. As always, love getting your feedback in the comment section. Let the dialog begin.

 

Merger & acquisition activity continues; Humana or Cigna acquired.
Major mergers and acquisitions that mark the end of 2017 (CVS-Aetna, Dignity Health-CHI and rumored Ascension-Providence) will spill over into 2018. Both Humana and Cigna will be in play, and one of them will be acquired or merged in 2018.

Retail health clinics grow rapidly, accounting for 5 percent of primary care encounters.
Hot on the health heels of CVS’ acquisition of Aetna, growth in retail health reignites, albeit off a low overall footprint. By end of 2018, retail health clinic locations will exceed 3,000 and account for ~5% of all primary care encounters; up from 1,800 and ~2%, respectively, in 2015.

Apple buys a telehealth vendor.
In a bid to one-up Samsung’s partnership with American Well, and in a bid to establish itself as the first tech giant to disrupt healthcare delivery, Apple will acquire a DTC telehealth vendor in 2018.

Sixty percent of ACOs struggle to break even.
Despite investments in population health management (PHM) solutions, payers still struggle with legacy back-end systems that hinder timely delivery of actionable claims data to provider organizations. The best intentions for value-based care will flounder, and 60% of ACOs will struggle to break even. ACO formation will continue to grow, albeit more slowly, to mid-single digits in 2018 to just under 1,100 nationwide (up from 923 as of March 2017).

Every major EHR vendor delivers some level of FHIR support, but write access has to wait until 2019.
While some of the major EHR vendors have announced support for write access sometime this year and will definitely deliver this support to their most sophisticated customers, broad-based use of write APIs will happen after 2018. HCOs will be wary about willy-nilly changes to the patient record until they see how the pioneers fare.

Cloud deployment chips away at on-premises and vendor-hosted analytics.
True cloud-based deployments from name brand vendors such as AWS and Azure are in the minority today. But their price-performance advantages are undeniable to HIT vendors. Cerner will begin to incent its HealtheIntent customers to cloud host on AWS. Even Epic will dip its toes in the public cloud sometime in 2018, probably with some combination of Healthy Planet, Caboodle, and/or Kit.

True condition management remains outside providers’ orbit.
Providers will continue to lag behind payers and self-insured employers in adopting condition management solutions. There are two key reasons why: In particular, CMS reluctance to reimburse virtual Diabetes Prevention Programs, and in general, the less than 5% uptake for the CMS chronic care management billing code. In doing so, providers risk further isolation from value-based efforts to improve outcomes while controlling costs.

Mobile-first becomes dominant platform for over 75% of care management solutions.
Mobile accessibility is critical for dynamic care management, especially across the ambulatory sector. More than 75% of provider-focused care management vendors will have an integrated, proprietary mobile application for patients and caregivers by end of 2018. These mobile-enabled solutions will also facilitate collection of patient-reported outcome measures, with 50% of solutions offering this capability in 2018.

Solutions continue to document SDoH but don’t yet account for them.
A wide range of engagement, PHM, EHR, and care management solutions will make progress on documenting social determinants of health, but no more than 15% of solutions in 2018 will be able to automatically alter care plan interventions based on SDoH in 2018.

ONC defines enforcement rules for “data blocking,” but potential fines do little to change business dynamics that inhibit data liquidity.
The hard iron core of this issue is uncertainty about its real impact. No one know what percentage of patients or encounters are impacted when available data is rendered unavailable – intentionally or unintentionally. Data blocking definitely happen,s but most HCOs will rightly wonder about feds willingness to go after the blockers. The Office of the National Coordinator might actually make some rules, but there will be zero enforcement in 2018.

PHM solution market see modest growth of 5-7%.
Providers will pull back on aggressive plans to broadly adopt and deploy PHM solution suites, leading to lackluster growth in the PHM market of 5%to 7% in 2018. Instead, the focus will be on more narrow, specific, business-driven use cases, such as standing up an ACO. In response, provider-centric vendors will pivot to the payer market, which has a ready appetite for PHM solutions, especially those with robust clinical data management capabilities.

In-workflow care gap reminders replace reports and dashboards as the primary way to help clinicians meet quality and utilization goals.
This is a case where the threat of alert fatigue is preferable to the reality of report fatigue. Gaps are important, and most clinicians want to address them, but not at the cost of voluminous dashboards or reports. A single care gap that is obvious to the clinician opening a chart is worth a thousand reports or dashboards. By the end of 2018, reports and dashboards will no longer be delivered to front-line clinicians except upon request.

At least two dozen companies gain FDA-approval of products using Machine Learning in clinical decision support, up from half a dozen in 2017.
Arterys, Quantitative Insights, Butterfly Network, Zebra Medical Vision, EnsoData, and iCAD all received FDA approval for their AI-based solutions in 2017. This is just the start of AI’s future impact in radiology. Pioneer approvals in 2017 — such as Quantitative Insights’ QuantX Advanced breast CADx software and Arterys’s medical imaging platform — will be joined by many more in 2018 as vendors look to leverage the powerful abilities of AI/ML to reduce labor costs and improve outcomes dependent on digital image analysis.

What are your healthcare market predictions for 2018?

[bestwebsoft_contact_form]