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. 

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How to Succeed with a Provider-Sponsored Medicare Advantage Plan

By Matt Cox (Chief Marketing Officer, Lumeris) and Nigel Ohrenstein (Senior Vice President and head of Market, Lumeris)

doctor consults with Medicare Advantage patient

Health system and health plan leaders across the country are asking the same question: how will our organizations survive and thrive in a value-based world? As the shift to lower-cost settings accelerates and the population becomes older and sicker, organizations are seeking new ways to manage costs, generate income and control quality.

For many organizations, launching a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan paves the way for value-based care models that reward delivering better care at lower costs by combining clinical and financial expertise. As enrollment in MA continues to outpace traditional Medicare enrollment – with national MA penetration growing from 30 to 50 percent in the next 10 years – organizations must have a strategy that enables success in the future.

Benefits of a Medicare Advantage plan

MA is increasingly viewed as a potential growth area for organizations. While launching a plan certainly carries risk, it also offers significant upside for providers and payers to successfully manage the health care needs of members.

With an average annual premium of $10,000 per member according to a Lumeris study, MA enables provider-sponsored plans to manage the risk of a population. Access to comprehensive claims data can be used to identify high-risk patients and areas of high utilization, supporting an organization’s population health efforts and steering patients in-network. With aligned incentives, organizations can innovate and invest in care delivery with tools and workflows that support high-value, appropriate care.

Further, MA’s sophisticated risk adjustment methodology supports premium payments that reflect the expected cost of providing medical care to each member, including those with complex conditions. Proper risk adjustment requires providers to capture diagnoses accurately and completely to support reimbursement.

Finally, with Star ratings, well-managed MA plans that earn 4- to 5-Star ratings can attract more members and revenue through enhanced benefits. Highly-rated plans receive performance bonuses that bring in an extra five percent a year, which are used to provide additional benefits to members.

Consider creating a plan built around a collaborative model: one that aligns incentives, bolsters the provider-payer-member relationship and enables delivery of high-quality, cost-effective care.

Building blocks for a provider-sponsored plan

Establishing a provider-sponsored MA plan is a significant undertaking. Given the large investment of time and money, organizations considering launching a plan must ensure they have several foundational elements in place. Consider creating a plan built around a collaborative model: one that aligns incentives, bolsters the provider-payer-member relationship and enables delivery of high-quality, cost-effective care.

Organizational and market strategy

Before launching a plan, organizations must evaluate their tolerance for risk and ability to capitalize said health plan. A strong brand reputation in the market is obviously crucial, but additive resources and significant infrastructure are also required. Organizations should also consider market dynamics, population growth and reactions from key players – competing systems, provider groups and other payers – and how these factors impact their strategy as a differentiated plan offering in the market.

Operational experience

Considerable infrastructure is required for claims processing, actuarial analysis and utilization management, among other payer functions, which can be leveraged from working with a collaborative payer or operating partner. In MA, expertise in Star ratings, risk adjustment, sales and marketing, compliance and plan design add further complication to successful operations. To build the right foundation, provider-sponsored plans must focus on enabling the provider-payer-member relationship, often requiring innovative processes on everything from data transparency and aligned incentives, to coordinated care management programs and shared governance.

Engaged network

Core to a collaborative model is ensuring organizations are aligned. Managing a health plan requires organizations to focus on improving patient outcomes and monitoring the entire population, not just the patient in front of them. Fostering the right network and governance, aligning incentives to create mindshare, sharing best practices and information, and supporting new workflows and behaviors are all critical to success in value-based care delivery.

Partnering for success

Before launching a collaborative MA plan, organizations must assess capabilities to identify gaps in knowledge, expertise and operations. For most organizations, working with an operating partner is more effective than building internal MA competencies from the ground up. Finding a partner with skill and experience in launching a collaborative plan can enable organizations to gain a competitive advantage more quickly. It can improve the likelihood of success while limiting risk and enable providers to focus on their core strength of delivering high-quality, high-value outcomes.

One example of bringing these necessary capabilities together is the newly announced collaboration between Cerner, a global leader in healthcare technology, and Lumeris, an award-winning health plan and value-based care managed services operator. Under the relationship, the companies will provide a suite of offerings under the name Maestro Advantage™, designed to enable health systems and health plans to drive success in value-based arrangements through population health service organizations or provider-sponsored plans. The offerings combine Cerner technology and Lumeris operational services aiming to streamline redundant processes that burden members, payers and providers, including lengthy claims processing and reimbursement cycles, and obstacles to sharing data and records across any electronic health record in the network.

This post originally appeared on September 19, 2018, as the second in a series of sponsored guest blog posts on our Convergence conference blog. 

How Health Systems and Health Plans Are Leveraging Each Other’s Strengths Through Telehealth

By Mike Baird, President, Customer Solutions, American Well

 

telehealth consultationThere are over 5,000 hospitals in the United States, each caring for the country’s growing population of more than 325 million people. Aside from integrated health systems, many of these organizations are operating independently from health plans or other health systems. This type of siloed care has become the norm in the healthcare industry, and while EHRs have improved care continuity over the years, health organizations are still largely operating on their own.

The same can be said for these organizations’ telehealth programs. More than half of healthcare executives say they have implemented some sort of telemedicine service into their organization. Many health systems and health plans launch with a direct-to-patient urgent care telehealth service, before expanding to other service lines including behavioral health, specialty care, chronic care management, follow-up appointments and more. These telehealth programs leverage the healthcare organizations’ provider expertise, clinical services, technologies and unique ties to their communities. While telehealth is helping these organizations deliver more convenient and affordable care, their programs, too, have been historically siloed. Until now, that is.

Today, some of the top health systems and health plans in the country are utilizing their telemedicine programs to connect and exchange services instantly online. Health systems or hospitals who supply healthcare services are partnering with health insurers who generate consumer demand to leverage each other’s strengths.  This sharing of patient demand and provider supply is key in driving telehealth and patient success.

Two of the nation’s top healthcare organizations provide a perfect example of this type of telehealth care convergence. Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest and most well-respected hospitals in the country, offers its telehealth services on Anthem’s telehealth platform, LiveHealth Online. Consumers in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania who use Anthem’s telemedicine platform can connect with Cleveland Clinic physicians and nurse practitioners through the LiveHealth Online mobile or web platform for live on-demand video consults.

For Anthem, this collaboration offers its members unique access to providers from one of the nation’s leading institutions, and for Cleveland Clinic, it allows the health system to extend its telehealth service visibility to Anthem’s 38.5 million members — ultimately increasing usage and attracting new patients.

health plan health system shared telehealth platform

New-York Presbyterian offers another innovative example of care collaboration and integration through telehealth. New-York Presbyterian is one of the nation’s most comprehensive, integrated academic healthcare systems. The system has ambitious goals for telehealth and has already integrated virtual care into its emergency rooms to provide effective behavioral health treatment and to triage non-urgent patients to reduce wait times. Through its direct-to-consumer telemedicine program, New-York Presbyterian makes its providers available on the Samsung Health Ask an Expert app, which is preloaded onto Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Through this telemedicine exchange, a consumer with a Samsung phone can have an urgent care video visit with a New-York Presbyterian provider from within the Ask An Expert app. For New-York Presbyterian, partnering with Samsung gives their telehealth program unprecedented exposure to consumers across the country, while Samsung can offer consumers access to New-York Presbyterian’s renowned providers.

New-York Presbyterian, Cleveland Clinic and Anthem are the trailblazers for this type of virtual care collaboration, and more healthcare organizations are following suit as focus shifts from fee-for-service to value-based care.  These partnerships help accelerate telehealth adoption through greater platform utilization, increased healthcare specialty choices for patients, and expanded access to care.

Recent regulations have also helped make telemedicine collaboration more appealing for healthcare organizations. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact allows expediated multistate licenses for physicians, which means health systems wanting to extend their services over state lines can expect expedited, multistate licensure for their physicians.

Health systems and health plans have their own unique strengths; by lifting the virtual barriers of telehealth care delivery, they can leverage these strengths through thoughtful telehealth collaborations.  In turn, this is transforming the way care is delivered and received for the benefit of both patients, providers, and health systems.

This post originally appeared on September 5, 2018, as the first in a series of sponsored guest blog posts on our Convergence conference blog. 

How Healthcare Leaders Adapt to the Evolving Front Door to Care

by Brian Eastwood and Paul Nardone

When today’s healthcare consumers have questions about their health, they are no longer limited to phone calls to the doctor’s office or visits to the emergency room. Technology has enabled and supported the creation of numerous new “front doors to care” – including but not limited to telehealth, chatbots, digital therapeutics, retail health, urgent care, and community-based clinics – that threaten to disrupt traditional care delivery models.

We recently interviewed two leaders at organizations leveraging telehealth to meet patients where they are and complement existing clinical workflows:

  • Joseph Brennan, Senior Director, MedNow at Spectrum Health
  • Chris Johnson, Vice President and General Manager, Landmark Health

Excerpts of these interviews appear below. They have been edited for clarity.

Briefly describe the solution or service you offer and how it opens a new front door to care for patients.

Brennan: MedNow is Spectrum Health’s direct to consumer (DTC) telehealth program. It has been in place for four years. It lets patients see a provider on their device for low acuity primary care conditions. Custom-building a mobile app that integrates with the EHR enabled us to enhance the patient experience and complement all of the other digital tools that Spectrum Health offers.

Johnson: We describe Landmark Health as a leading-risk medical group. We contract primarily with payers but can also contract with anyone who takes on risk. We focus exclusively on patients with 6 or more chronic conditions and are available to them 24/7/365 telephonically or in their home. We have physician leaders who take care of patients and are supported by interdisciplinary teams: Case management, behavioral health, pharmacists, dietitians, social worker, and non-clinical healthcare ambassadors who help build relationships with patients in between clinical visits and help them with education.

Was the motivation to adopt a solution that would open a new “front door to care” driven by clinical, financial, or operational needs?

Brennan: All of the above. The primary driver for us creating a great patient experience is that it is quickly becoming an expectation of patients who want convenient access to care. In addition, as healthcare transitions to value-based care (VBC), cost reduction is paramount.

Johnson: The hospital business model isn’t designed to provide longitudinal care of patients with complex conditions. We designed a model from the group up that could provide care for patients when they need it (24/7) and where they need it – in the comfort of their home. Patients with complex chronic conditions have a generally steady high medical spend year-over-year, so intensive longitudinal models to improve their long-term health work well. There are also psychosocial elements, including depression, dementia as well as addiction. This can be impacted by the interdisciplinary approach – specifically the incorporation social work and behavioral health – of our clinical model.

Hospitals state outwardly that they don’t want inappropriate hospitalizations. We are not taking away their core business treating patients in need of acute care.

How did you make the case for implementing a front door to care that has the potential to adversely impact another part of the business?

Brennan: Throughout development of our program, we were very conscious of cannibalization. Telehealth takes visits out of the emergency department and replaces it with something much less expensive. In preparing our health system for the future, we would rather get ahead of reducing healthcare costs than react to it. We need competencies in virtual care for the future and chose to build it now, rather than trying to catch up later.

Johnson: Hospitals state outwardly that they don’t want inappropriate hospitalizations. If there’s a readmission, they don’t get paid the second time, so we partner with them on discharge planning. Conceptually, they’re aligned. We are not taking away their core business treating patients in need of acute care.

Which stakeholders did you need to engage when first making your pitch – and who was the hardest to convince?

Brennan: We emphasized both clinical and operational benefits. Many health systems focus on one or the other; our strategy was to focus on both. The primary resistance came from physicians who were not convinced this was an appropriate standard of care. Four years into our telehealth journey, some physicians still don’t believe that virtual care is part of the future. We can attribute much of our success to the buy-in and support of executive leadership.

Johnson: We’re something that not a lot of people have seen before. It takes a bit of time to explain who we are and assuage fears that we will be competing for members with primary care physicians. We’re not a PCP, and we encourage strong relationships with a PCP. When we enter a market, PCP visits stay the same, or even increase a little bit. Once PCPs see the effects, they realize it’s really only a small number of their panel – and it’s usually the ones they find the hardest to manage, who have a lot of barriers to care.

When we are measuring the growth of our encounters, we are thinking of it as a convenient front door to the system, so it makes sense to measure how many people come through that door. Other important metrics include new patients to the system, cost savings to payers, avoided ED and Urgent Care visits, and patient miles saved.

What KPIs or other metrics are most important to measuring the success of your front door to care initiative? Are you focused on raising awareness, boosting business, or adding revenue?

Brennan: For us, it’s the number of encounters. With virtual care, the only way to scale is through increasing volume. When we are measuring the growth of our encounters, we are thinking of it as a convenient front door to the system, so it makes sense to measure how many people come through that door. Other important metrics include new patients to the system, cost savings to payers, avoided Emergency Department and Urgent Care visits, and patient miles saved.

Johnson: Our service significantly reduces the medical expense reimbursement for a patient and improves the medical loss ratio for that covered population – from north of 100% to something quite profitable. Health plans can take a segment of members that used to be challenging and bring it in line with the rest of their book of business. This allows our plan partners to keep premiums lows and invest in additional services for their members.

How does your new front door to care reduce the friction that often makes it difficult for patients to seek the care they need?

Brennan: First and foremost, it’s access. Our average wait time for a visit is 12 minutes and we are available 24/7. MedNow sees patients regardless of having a relationship with a Spectrum Health provider and we are available to everyone in the state of Michigan.  We have created a patient experience that is easy to use so that we can provide care where and when a patient needs it.

Johnson: The patients we serve often have frequent inpatient stays, or discharges to skilled nursing or post-acute care facilities. It’s often inappropriate and ineffective care; patients leave in worse condition than when they came in. If we can manage or control these patients more effectively prior to an incident, working with their existing PCP and specialists, we may prevent a hospital visit and stabilize longitudinal health.

What do you think will be the most disruptive front door to care in the next 3-5 years?

Brennan: It’s the digital health ecosystem. Similar to Google’s digital ecosystem, it is a suite of products, not just one tool.  We will get to a point where the expectation of patients becomes that health systems will meet their needs digitally like other industries, such as banking and commerce.

Johnson: For us, it’s literally the front door. Our mission is to bring healthcare to people when they need it, where they need it. It’s simple but profound. It also allows us to bring family in. A lot of the barriers to care are around families and education and getting people on the same team. We have clinicians who can build great care plans, but also think through the barriers to care and how to ensure the patient can follow that care plan. “How can we implement this? What are the barriers? What is the family alignment that we need?” Being able to do it in the evening, on the weekend, allows us to have better conversations.

A version of this blog first appeared on the Convergence 2018 blog on September 27, 2018. 

Future Winners in Accelerating Shift to Value

Last week, CMS released its proposed rule (beware – in good government fashion it’s a whooping 607 pages) for the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program. CMS is taking a big leap forward with this rule on the path to value-based care. The big leap? Moving existing MSSP ACOs from all upside contracts (no risk), to taking on an ever-increasing portion of risk (downside, e.g. reimburse CMS if targets not met). This is a real wake-up call for providers, especially hospital-led ACOs, who have by and large failed to meet targets in current MSSP ACO contracts.

What Got Us Here

The advent of ACOs is a byproduct of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), wherein the Obama administration was seeking new payment models to shift Medicare spending from fee-for-service to value-based care (VBC). To get providers comfortable with the concept, various ACO models were deployed with MSSP the most popular – currently 86% of all Medicare ACOs.

Within the MSSP ACO a provider organization could choose one of three tracks, but only Track 1 carried no downside risk. Logically, nearly all providers chose Track 1 initially and today 82% of MSSP ACOs are still in this track. Unfortunately, in 2016 this track was a money-losing proposition for CMS, as hospital-led MSSP ACOs racked up losses for CMS that were higher than the savings from physician-led ACOs.

Provider readiness to take on true risk has always been the rub…With these proposed rules, CMS is going beyond meeting providerswhere they are but pushing them forward on the path to value.

Fast Forward

At the recent Leavitt Partners conference, attendees were briefed on the political climate in Washington. Despite all the political rhetoric, there are three core healthcare principles that are non-partisan:

  • Fee for service (FFS) is the problem.
  • Integrated care is better than disparate care.
  • There is a strong need for valid measures to score value.

This event also emphasized that the federal government must take the lead in pushing the industry to VBC, again for a couple of simple reasons:

  • CMS is the largest payer in the country, representing over half of all healthcare spending. Money talks.
  • Unlike employers, CMS has beneficiaries in every region of the country, encouraging and enforcing nationwide measures of value.

The MSSP ACO proposed rules are just another step, of what will likely be many, which CMS will have to take in its attempt to bend the cost curve. Rather than wait for providers to voluntarily accept and migrate to true risk – something we saw little of in the former MSSP ACO rules – the proposed rules foist that risk upon providers. Granted, providers are given one to two years in a “glide path to risk” in the new rules, but risk is definitely in their future; by contract year five, an MSSP ACO will take on enough downside risk to qualify as an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) under MACRA.

In summary, CMS proposes ending the current Tracks 1 and 2 replacing them with a new 5-level BASIC track. The first two levels of the BASIC track begin with no risk to providers but annual auto-advancement to higher risk-reward layers will advance providers into risk sharing. Former Track 3 will become the ENHANCED track. The current 3-year agreement period changes to 5-years minimum and national inflation metrics will be replaced with regional metrics.

Somewhat depressingly, the total calculated projected 10-year savings for the new MSSP rules is a paltry $2.2B.

Winners and Losers Aplenty

The proposed rules are likely causing a lot of angst in the executive offices of many a hospital, but these rules will have winners as well.

 

Table 1: Winners and Losers in Proposed MSSP ACO Rules*

From our vantage point, provider readiness to take on true risk has always been the rub. The recent NAACOS survey found that 71 percent of Track 1 MSSP ACOs scheduled for renewal this year were unlikely to do so if they had to assume risk. This is likely an inflated number – when push comes to shove, far more will renew – but this is a barometer of provider sentiment and overall readiness even among those with some experience with the program.

Across the country, healthcare is anything but consistent. As Gary Loveman, former executive vice president of Aetna, pointed out at our Convergence conference last year, one has to meet providers where they are. With these proposed rules, CMS is going beyond meeting providers – but pushing them forward on the path to value. For most providers who take this path, it will be challenging, and trusted partners with previous experience in risk-bearing ACO enablement will be essential.

Without a doubt, something has to be done to bend the cost curve – and, to its credit, CMS is taking action. However, will the action that CMS is taking here with the MSSP ACO program be enough to fend off its critics, especially if projected savings are so minuscule? We’re really unsure, but one thing we are certain of is that CMS is the only entity in this market that has the ability to do something on a nationwide scale. If not CMS, then who?

 

* Reducing the Risk – Vendors Enabling the ACO, Chilmark Research Market Scan Report, March 2017

Da Vinci Project: FHIR Meets Value-based Payments

The Da Vinci Project could turn payers and providers from adversaries into partners.

While healthcare frets and obsesses about the state of exchange between providers, payers have been relatively slow to embrace modern ideas about data movement. On the federal level, Blue Button 2.0 lets Medicare beneficiaries download or authorize the download of their own health data. This federal program has generated a lot of interest, signing up roughly 500 organizations and 700 developers at last count. Claims data on 53 million beneficiaries spanning 4.5 years is available for authorized developers and applications. Commercial payers have yet to emulate such an approach. However, there are indications that they are beginning to take notice and act.

Da Vinci Project Addresses Payer-provider Interaction

The Da Vinci Project is a new private sector initiative to address the technical requirements for FHIR-based data exchange among participants in value-based care (VBC) programs. Its general goal is to help payers and providers with techniques and ideas for information exchange that contribute to improved clinical, quality, and cost outcomes. More specifically, it wants to facilitate the creation of use case-specific reference implementations of FHIR-oriented solutions to information exchange challenges in value-based care.

The Da Vinci Project is a relatively new project in from Health Level 7. Its founders represent organizations with experience across a range of VBC business challenges and the FHIR standard. Currently, it has the support of 27 organizations, including 11 payers, 10 health IT vendors (including 3 EHR vendors), and 6 providers.

Making coverage information REST-accessible and granular could vastly improve on the flurry of phone calls, faxes, and EDI-based document exchange that bedevil hospitals and physician offices.

Da Vinci aims to deliver implementation guides (IG) and reference software implementations for data exchange and workflows needed to support providers and payers entering and managing value-based contracts and relationships. FHIR implementation guides are roughly analogous to an IHE profile in that they define actors and actions in a defined use case. In this instance, the idea is to help providers and payers operationalize their complementary processes in value-based contracts.

Initial Use Cases

Da Vinci at one time contemplated creating nine use cases. It eventually narrowed this focus to developing IGs for two that have particular VBC relevance:

30-Day Medication Reconciliation 

Medication reconciliation is a time-consuming part of patient encounters anywhere on the care continuum. Post-discharge, this capability can reduce the incidence of adverse drug events and head off re-hospitalizations. The objective of this project is to create a simple workflow that allows providers to attest that a medication reconciliation is complete.

Coverage Requirements Discovery 

Coverage requirements discovery enables a provider to request payer coverage requirements in their clinical workflow. In-workflow coverage details can make point-of-care decision making about orders, treatment, procedure, or referrals more efficient. The ability to make both clinical and administrative decision mid-encounter and with a patient minimizes the non-clinical cognitive burden on providers. By reducing denials and delays administrators can be freed for other patient-specific work. As prior authorization becomes more common in value-based payment programs, providers could save time if such information were more readily available to them.

Both IGs will be balloted in HL7’s September Ballot Cycle, and Da Vinci is actively encouraging people to comment. Da Vinci team members will be on hand to help implementers interested in these two initial use cases at HL7’s September Connectathon in Baltimore, MD.  It has also begun working on requirements for a third use case, Documentation Templates and Payer Rules.

Blue Button Still Leads

While the data scope of this effort is not nearly as broad as Blue Button’s, which provides access to a patient’s claims history, it is a reasonable first step. Making coverage information REST-accessible and granular could underpin applications, vastly improving the flurry of phone calls, faxes, and EDI-based document exchange that bedevil hospitals and physician offices. Hopefully, this effort is a leading indicator of better access to commercial payer data to come for patients and providers.

Blockchain in Healthcare: Enthusiasm is growing, but still a long way to go to realize impact

Key Takeaways:

  • Blockchain can be useful in healthcare in contexts where there is dependency between transactions and an asset, such as data, passes from one party to another.
  • Some of the applications most ready for ‘prime-time’ include data sharing between payers and providers.
  • Over the next decade, blockchain will be a significant part of solutions to interoperability challenges.

The speculative craze around Bitcoin and the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) market for startups in the digital currency and blockchain space has heightened the interest in blockchain beyond the crypto-community and into the mainstream. The speculation in the ICO market has driven investment in these vehicles to reach nearly $7 billion in 2017 virtually dwarfing venture capital for startups across all sectors including healthcare. Among the hundreds of startups in the blockchain ICO count are over 70 dealing with healthcare according to industry observer Vince Kuraitis. But speculative capital rarely translates into long-term sustainability and the disruptive business models that startup founders espouse. Limitations with scalability, transaction speeds, energy consumption have been some of the dominant concerns. This is particularly true in healthcare and we have reached an important point in the evolution of the blockchain space where it is worth pausing to take stock of how blockchain applications are evolving and what specific pain points in health IT can current blockchain infrastructures realistically address.

Blockchain can be valuable in contexts where there is dependency between transactions and an asset, such as data, passes from one party to another. Furthermore, when verification of the integrity or provenance of the data is valuable the immutability and time stamping features that blockchain provides are very useful.

Chilmark Research is releasing our “Market Scan Report (MSR) on “Blockchain in Healthcare” with this goal in mind. We wanted to explore the first generation of use cases and startups in the blockchain space and provide a strong foundation for understanding the potential applications in areas that speak to the core capabilities of blockchain as they relate to payers and providers: identity management, data sharing/exchange, provider directories, patient indices, claims adjudication, supply chains and revenue cycle management. We can think of blockchain as having a role in addressing pain points in the healthcare system where we see some of the following challenges:

  • When multiple parties have need for a shared source of data or registry to generate transactions across a network of disparate agents or tracking of data use is required (delays in reimbursements to providers are frequently driven by inaccuracies in provider registries used by payers)
  • Where trust is required (in data, in reliability of agents in the network) to fulfill transactions (a major roadblock for data sharing and care coordination across complex networks) or there is currently a minimal amount of trust across the ecosystem of parties that generate transactions (trust in data shared across providers and transparency in when patient data is changed or updated can help reduce medical errors)
  • Third parties are used to verify parties in transactions but there may be delays or high transaction costs or administrative costs associated with this intermediary role
  • All data shared in the system requires high privacy and security standards/regulations to be met for compliance or protecting patient/provider data and patient consent but decentralized control of the data would lead to more effective services

Contexts where there is dependency between transactions and an asset, such as data, passes from one party to another are important areas where blockchain can be valuable. Furthermore, when verification of the integrity or provenance of the data is valuable the immutability and time stamping features that blockchain provides are very useful.

Blockchain Applications in Development

Our research into the current applications in development and most-ready for prime time in the next year include companies working in the following areas of the provider-payer nexus:

  • Provider data management: use of identity management schemes for creating Master Patient Indices and hashing disparate clinical records for patients into a common patient-held wallet
  • Proof of Provenance, Tracking and Tracing in supply chains: this leverages experience in commodities, digital assets and food supply chains to provide similar services to prevent fraud, enable serialization of pharmaceutical products and protect the integrity of pharma and hospital supply chains. In some markets, globally, up to 50% of drugs can be counterfeit and create tremendous public health problems
  • Patient benefits and insurance authorization: automate and keep up to date verification and authentication of patients
  • Claims adjudication: use of APIs and blockchain to create administrative efficiencies and automation of claims adjudication
  • Care coordination: enable better interoperability of data flows across providers to improve care coordination
  • Better integration of data beyond the EHR: patient-generated data and social determinants data can potentially be compiled and shared while improving privacy and security as well as more patient control of this data via blockchain applications
  • Provider Directories: Consortia of providers and payers have an opportunity to create up to date provider network registries and automate this process through blockchain.

We provide brief vendor profiles of consulting firms, large tech providers and startups working in the blockchain space and an analysis of where we see this market going in the coming years. These also include some of the larger consulting and tech firms offering enterprise Blockchain-as-a-Service offerings including IBM, Accenture, Deloitte and T-Systems. The startups profiled include PokitDok, Simply Vital Health, Solve.Care, MedRec, Change Healthcare, Factom. There are also alternatives to blockchain or a growing number of companies that have chosen to develop “blockchain friendly” applications until the blockchain ecosystem reaches a higher level of maturity. Google’s DeepMind Health is using an alternative distributed ledger technology with patient records in the UK’s National Health System after creating an uproar over perceived misuse of patient data without approvals or prior consent. Blockchain offers an auditable way to address this controversy. A supply chain/cybersecurity offering by Cloudface provides an analytics solution for hospital supply chain with plans to create blockchain applications in the near future. There is also growing interest in IOTA’s Tangle for the Internet-of-Things (IoT).

Blockchain as an Enabler of Transformation

One interesting example that emerged at the end of our writing this report was the recently announced Optum-Quest-Humana-MultiPlan blockchain initiative to improve provider directories. This is part of an effort to streamline back-office operations for payers. The initiative was developed to address the problem that arises when claims from providers enter the system and there is a mismatch between the records payers have on providers and the provider identity. Often the payer directories are not up to date and the resulting lack of reconciliation of claims submitted by providers results in delays or non-payment of claims. The initiative will launch a pilot during the summer of 2018. What is important about this initiative is the involvement of multiple stakeholders making it a more salient use-case of blockchain for pain points resulting from lack of coordination and effective sharing of data across multiple companies. We view blockchain as a tool for industry transformation rather than disruption of companies, this is a prime example of how to begin thinking about utilizing blockchain in a transformative manner. Over the next decade, we expect to see fewer discussions of blockchain in isolation and it will be a component alongside the cloud, AI and other technologies used to automate administrative functions and enable more efficient sharing of data.

Over the next decade we expect to see fewer discussions of blockchain in isolation and it will be a component alongside the cloud, AI and other technologies used to automate administrative functions and enable more efficient sharing of data.

Blockchain’s Future

The example above also leads us to how Chilmark Research is beginning to think about the future of blockchain in healthcare. Blockchain is an inherently complex new technology that necessarily involves coordination across networks of stakeholders. This means that blockchain ‘disruption’ of healthcare that solves the interoperability challenge or other major pain points with a single technological quick fix is not anywhere even remotely close on the horizon, but we do believe the full impact of the transformative potential of blockchain will play out over the coming decade. 2018 will see a growing number of pilots and experimentation as the hype of 2016-17 spurred considerable interest.

Even government has gotten involved with a Blockchain Caucus in Congress. The ONC’s white paper challenge and recent Trust Exchange Framework bode well for blockchain’s future as well. Blockchain proponents would be well served in the long run by moving beyond a strict techno-centric approach and developing more robust thinking on managing consortia, governance mechanisms, and the broader cryptoeconomics of blockchain in the context of the health economy. Thinking is lagging on these fronts and the froth around easy money via ICOs in 2017 has not helped matters in developing the critical thinking tools towards long-term success for blockchain in the health IT ecosystem.

For those interested in learning more Chilmark Research will be attending the Second Annual Healthcare Blockchain Summit on June 11-12 in Boston where many of the vendors and use cases we analyze in our report will be represented.

Optum’s Deal With DaVita: Vertically Integrated Healthcare Continues to Grow

Healthcare continues trend toward consolidation as more M&A deals mark the end of 2017

As we kick off 2018, we rest in the wake of the announcement of the largest M&A deal to date in the healthcare industry between CVS and Aetna. While stakeholders speculate about implications, another deal was announced between healthcare payer UnitedHealth (UNH) and provider group DaVita (DVA). UNH’s Optum announced an agreement to buy a division of DVA, DaVita Medical Group (DMG) – not the dialysis management business for which DVA is well known – for approximately $4.9 billion in cash. If the deal passes through regulatory oversight, Optum will have removed an attractive acquisition target for competitors looking to acquire provider groups.

Along the same line, within 2 weeks of the Optum-DVA deal, Humana indicated plans to acquire Kindred Healthcare. These M&A data points reinforce the trend toward healthcare payer and provider convergence that Chilmark Research highlights as the theme of our annual conference. The race is on for market share of vertically integrated health systems.

With the DMG acquisition, Optum’s healthcare delivery division, OptumCare, gains yet another provider group (see Table 1). The acquisition will bring with it roughly 1.7 million patients served annually across a range of specialties and forms of care delivery.

Table 1: Optum’s Recent Provider Organization Acquisitions

DaVita’s Divestiture & Appeal to Acquirers

DaVita is one of eight healthcare providers in the Fortune 500 for fiscal year 2016-2017 (see Table 2).

Table 2: Healthcare Providers in the Fortune 500, 2016-2017

DaVita had been acquiring provider groups aggressively. It is reasonable to presume that DaVita continued to acquire provider groups to be more attractive for DMG acquisition. It is unclear whether this divestiture serves as an example of providers challenged by the prospect of risk management, which is in the DNA of neither a payer nor a provider, or another strategic business decision.

While DaVita’s dialysis management business continued to thrive, DMG struggled. In third quarter SEC filings, the company highlighted divisional losses attributed mostly to a change from shared risk to global risk contracts, increased utilization, growth, and increased labor costs.

DMG has 300 primary and specialty care clinics, 35 urgent care centers and six surgical care centers in California, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington. DMG only represents about 25% of DVA net revenues, but there are a finite number of acquisition targets for Optum and its competitors to pursue with the same consolidated magnitude, breadth, and geographic distribution of DMG.

As with the CVS-Aetna deal, the promise of the Optum-DMG deal has to do with the vertically integrated business and care operation. By aligning business interests of organizations across the risk spectrum and the care continuum, population health management, optimization of risk based contracts and cost management all promise to be more effective.

 

Optum’s Opportunity to Capitalize

As with the CVS-Aetna deal, the promise of the Optum-DMG deal is the vertically integrated business and care operation. By aligning business interests of organizations across the risk spectrum and the care continuum, PHM and the optimization of risk-based contracts and cost management all promise to be more effective.

Integrating and driving efficiency across provider organizations acquired by Optum is not a simple task. The organizations listed in Table 1 use a litany of technology solutions from various vendors including Cerner, Allscripts, NextGen, Meditech, Conduent, Inovalon, Healthfusion, IBM, Medelytics, McKesson, and Softcare. As Optum acquires provider groups, it must decide how prescriptive and assimilative to will be. This includes process and protocols, as well as other aspects of system interoperability.

Components of OptumInsight, including analytics, short-form health surveys, consulting and decision support (Impact Intelligence) may all offer a means of improving efficiencies at the DMG subsidiaries that had been performing poorly for DaVita. It is not clear, however, how Optum specifically will be able to convert these provider groups into more profitable organizations.

 

Decentralization and Consolidation

Over the past decade care delivery has trended toward a decentralized model, migrating from acute to ambulatory care. Surgical centers, alternatives to traditional primary care, and urgent care clinics arose to provide alternatives to a traditional hospital-centric care model. This has challenged stand-alone hospitals and yielded a further fragmented care system.

With ubiquitous EHR systems, the challenges of interoperability began – but as the industry has made steps toward better integration, the hurdles toward providing efficiencies have become more business driven. Consolidation is an inevitable remedy – and it appears to be upon us.

Consolidation of payers and providers will be a battle for patients under management and their ability to create greater efficiencies as consolidated organizations. Administrative efficiencies, risk reduction and lower costs of care management are feasible at scale, but coordinating care across a diverse set of care environments can be challenging and systems integration remains difficult. By owning more layers of care, the payers can reduce integration friction. Care coordination in network can be improved and decentralized care environments more effectively leveraged for their individual contributions to cost reduction and improvements to care quality.

We will be watching to see if UNH and Optum can turn this acquisition into a win by leveraging their data, the skill of their services, the quality of their technology, and the ability capitalize on the reduction of organizational barriers.

In this acquisitive environment, the power appears to lie with the payers and other large health brands such as CVS, as most providers have less capital and haven’t been moving as fast. It is worth evaluating, though, whether partnership or acquisition is the more suitable strategy in this time of flux. We will explore this topic in a Domain Monitor for CAS clients in the upcoming weeks.

As 2018 begins, what is the next big deal on the horizon? How will organizations like Partners HealthCare or Kaiser Permanente respond to acceleration of M&A around them? Will the potential mergers of Dignity and CHI or Providence-St. Josephs and Ascension give provider organizations enough depth and breadth to counter payer M&A moves? We will certainly ask ourselves these questions as these mega-deals continue to unfold in an increasingly convergent provider-payer market.

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