Physicians Shouldn’t Wait for Big Data: “Small Data” Can Jumpstart Your Care Management Program

by David C. Kibbe MD, MBA and Vince Kuraitis JD, MBA

Everywhere we turn these days it seems “Big Data” is being touted as a solution for physicians and physician groups who want to participate in Accountable Care Organizations, (ACOs) and/or accountable care-like contracts with payers. We disagree, and think the accumulated experience about what works and what doesn’t work for care management suggests that a “Small Data” approach might be good enough for many medical groups, while being more immediately implementable and a lot less costly. We’re not convinced, in other words, that the problem for ACOs is a scarcity of data or second rate analytics. Rather, the problem is that we are not taking advantage of, and using more intelligently, the data and analytics already in place, or nearly in place.

For those of you who are interested in the concept of Big Data, Steve Lohr recently wrote a good overview in his column in the New York Times, in which he said:

“Big Data is a shorthand label that typically means applying the tools of artificial intelligence, like machine learning, to vast new troves of data beyond that captured in standard databases. The new data sources include Web-browsing data trails, social network communications, sensor data and surveillance data.”

Applied to health care and ACOs, the proponents of Big Data suggest that some version of IBM’s now-famous Watson, teamed up with arrays of sensors and a very large clinical data repository containing virtually every known fact about all of the patients seen by the medical group, is a needed investment. Of course, many of these data are not currently available in structured, that is computable, format. So one of the costly requirements that Big Data may impose on us results from the need to convert large amounts of unstructured or poorly structured data to structured data. But when that is accomplished, so advocates tell us, Big Data is not only good for quality care, but is “absolutely essential” for attaining the cost efficiency needed by doctors and nurses to have a positive and money-making experience with accountable care shared-savings, gain-share, or risk contracts. The promotional literature for Big Data is peppered with jargon and catch phrases — “close to the point of care,” “synthesizing large amounts of information,” “transformational analytics,” and so on — that promise to “de-fragment” the current health care environment and offer predictive insights that the doctors, nurses, and patients do not now possess.

This all may be true. But why wait for Big Data to be put in place, when what we’ll call “Small Data” is already available and can offer information and analytical insights sufficient to get a good start on care management programs capable of improving quality and reducing some unnecessary costs?

The 100 Year Shift? Introduction and Overview

by Vince Kuraitis JD, MBA and Jaan Sidorov MD, MHSA, FACP

Gazing at the horizon, we foresee the potential for a tectonic realignment among physicians, hospitals and payers. Here’s a quick visual representation:

Past100

Next100

This essay is the first of a seven part series. In this first post we will capsulize our vision of this potential 100 Year Shift, answer initial FAQs, and lay out the structure for the rest of the series.

The Lynchpin — Changing Economic Incentives

In the past, physicians and hospitals have benefited from mutually supportive economic interests.

Table of contents for the series--The 100 Year Shift? Strategic Realignment among Physicians, Hospitals and Payers

  1. The 100 Year Shift? Introduction and Overview
  2. Payment Transformation: From Volume to Value
  3. Physician-Hospital Relationships: The Hospital Morphs from Revenue Center to Cost Center
  4. The Practice of Medicine: from Marcus Welby to ???

Is Hospital-Physician Integration Sustainable?

Reprinted courtesy of MCOL.

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Perspectives on a Selected Key Topic |     April 2011/May 2011     |   Volume Three Issue Two


MCOL2

Will a material number of hospitals and their core medical staffs, that are relatively independent, evolve into highly integrated delivery systems during this decade, and why?

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William J DeMarco MA, CMC
Demarco1
President and CEO, Pendulum HealthCare Development Corporation

The great momentum brought about by government and private payers demand for more accountability is unstoppable. Rapid consolidation of hospitals and consolidation of physicians by physician groups, hospitals and now insurers will shift referral patterns and consumer preference. 1 out of 4 hospitals will fall short of providing value and close or be absorbed within 10 years.

Physicians will be offered higher prices to sell out to insurers and investors who value the short supply of PCPs and will try to control care demand by retooling the care system building ASC and small scale short stay hospital.

True clinical integration will follow for the survivors. The ability to prospectively develop clinical budgets and bundles of services will connect regional tertiary and quaternary care facilities to local hospitals so integration can be regionalized across larger populations and payer segments.

Once these delivery systems realize they need a product recognizable to individual consumers they will seek alliance with select insurers or create their own insurance company thereby achieving the true definition of integration which is to integrate financing and delivery of care.

This offers the shared savings with themselves and stabilizes patient flow and overhead to achieve value to purchasers and users of care.

We think these opportunities will be at a tipping point on a market by market basis over the next 5 years and will be a national definition of success within 8 years. We believe this will happen because already the bond rating companies are looking at physician alignment and payer alignment as factors in establishing credit worthiness of hospitals for expansion and mergers.

Benjamin Isgur
Isgur2
Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s Health Research Institute

Integration is certainly on the rise. The notion of independent physicians may be a myth because so-called independent physicians are becoming increasingly financially tethered to hospitals. In fact fifty-six percent of physicians PwC surveyed want to more closely align with a hospital in order to increase their income. The new health reform law focuses on population health and adopts a Medicare compensation model that penalizes poor quality and rewards cost savings and electronic information sharing. Some commercial payers are also pushing this business model.

List of Top 10 Health Plan Issues — Out of Whack!

Healthcare IT News just published its list of top issues for health plans in 2011:

1. Administrative Mandates (Compliance HIPAA 5010, ICD-10, etc.).
2. Care Management, Data Analytics, and Informatics.
3. Health Insurance Exchanges and Individual Markets.
4. New Provider Payment & Delivery Systems (ACOs, PCMHs, etc.).
5. Bend the Cost Trend.
6. Medicare and Medicaid.
7. Health Information Exchanges and EMRs.
8. Consumer’s Role in the Modernization of Healthcare.
9. Reform Uncertainties.
10. Payer/Provider Interoperability.

Dear health plan colleagues,

Wake up! The order of this list is totally out of whack.

#2: Care Management, Data Analytics, Informatics. Good…sounds about right.

However,

#2 can’t happen before you address:

#7: HIEs and EMRs

#10: Payer/Provider Interoperability

Health plans can’t analyze the data and assist in care management unless they first have access to it. Payers need access to clinical data, and they are at risk of being cut out of the loop.

P.S.

Please also take a look at priority #1: Administrative Mandates (Compliance HIPAA 5010, ICD-10, etc.). This is completely reactive!

In these times of great change, is this how health plans want to posture themselves in the community?

ACO Roundtable on blogtalkradio: Friday, April 1

On Friday April 1st, 2011 (yes, ‘April Fools day’) at 4 PM Eastern and 1 PM Pacific

ACO Watch: A Mid Week Review will host a special roundtable series on the ‘hot of the press’ Notice of Proposed Rules’ pertaining to the implementation of Accountable Care Organizations. For the published rule, click here.

The roundtable team will consist of Mark Browne, MD, PYA, aka @consultdoc, Vince Kuraitis, e-Care Management blog, aka @VinceKuraitis, and David Harlow, the Harlow Group, LLC,  aka @healthblawg, with Gregg Masters, aka @2healthguru, as moderator and host.

To listen live, or via archived replay, click here. During the broadcast you may also listen in via (619) 393-2836, and even participate in the chatroom.

Complimentary Webinar — An Impending Marriage: Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Care Management Software

Hsi

Webinar Title: An Impending Marriage: Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Care Management Software

The presentation will be geared at practicing clinical case managers in health plans, hospitals, disease management companies, and similar organizations:

  • Describe market forces driving integration of EHRs and care management software. 
  • Review care management software survey data and stimulus funding for EHR adoption. 
  • Describe a 3 stage framework for the evolution of EHRs and care management software. 
  • Characterize benefits to patients and impacts on care manager responsibilities.

The event is sponsored by HealthSciences Institute and the PartnersinImprovement Alliance.

When:

Friday, February 4, 2011
11:30 am Eastern Time
10:30 am Central Time
9:30 am Mountain Time
8:30 am Pacific Time

Your Presenters:

Vince Kuraitis JD, MBA
Better Health Technologies, LLC

Garry Carneal, JD, MA
Schooner Healthcare Services

More Information and Registration:  Click here.

Updates on Proposed Stage 2 and 3 Meaningful Use Criteria

The Health IT Policy Committee has published proposed Stage 2 and 3 Meaningful Use Recommendations and they’re open for public comment until February 25.

I’ll share a couple of particularly useful and well written analyses and commentaries by colleagues.

Health IT guru and thought leader Dr. John Halamka writes about The Proposed Stage 2 and 3 Meaningful Use Recommendations in his blog.

This is a great article to get a thumbnail overview of all the proposed recommendations. John lists 38 criteria and provides a quick commentary on how challenging he sees each of them. (Keep in mind that he’s CIO at one of the most HIT-advanced health systems in the country — your definition of “easy” and his might not be alike.)

Will ACO IT Models Be Walled Gardens or Open Platforms?

Will ACO (accountable care organization) IT models be walled gardens or open platforms?  i.e., will ACO IT platforms focus on exchanging information within the provider network of the ACO, or will they also be able to exchange information with providers outside the ACO network? (If the question still isn’t clear, click here for a further explanation.).

MGH Medicare Disease/Care Management Demo Shows Home Run Results!

Medicare has (finally) recently released a report showing home run results for a disease/care management demonstration project!

Evaluation of Medicare Care Management for High Cost Beneficiaries (CMHCB) Demonstration: Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts General Physicians Organization (MGH)

Remind Me Again About the CMHCB Medicare Demo…

The CMHCB started in 2005. My recollection is that the demo requirements were extremely similar to the Medicare Health Support (MHS) project, with a few exceptions: 1) Applicants had to include direct care providers (delivery systems, physicians) in their program design, 2) patient populations were significantly smaller than MHS.  Please comment on anything I’m missing.

I’ve included an addendum at the bottom providing more info about this little known and not widely discussed Medicare demo.

…and what was the MGH CMP project for the CMHCB?

Is Physician EHR Adoption Getting Past the Penguin Problem?

Remember the penguin problem described by economists?

No one moves unless everyone moves, so no one moves. 

Overcoming the penguin problem has a lot to do with creating expectations. A recent writing by Dr. James O’Connor in Physician Practice expresses a voice from the physician community that I’ve never heard before.  His essay is entitled “Meaningful Use — Doctors Have No Choice”.