Good or perfect: Cutting the fastest path forward

Guest post by Patrick GordonDirector, Colorado Beacon Consortium

Early pioneers to Colorado did not have the luxury of waiting for railway or infrastructure to be in place before taming a new frontier. Their vision and determination laid the foundation for the settlers who followed. They used the tools and talents they had to develop an infrastructure and ultimately build viable, productive communities. Had they waited for the perfect conditions, they’d still be back east.

It’s a lesson we’ve applied to health care transformation. At the Colorado Beacon Consortium (CBC), we resisted the temptation to delay good learning opportunities and wait for perfect solutions. We embraced the ONC/HHS’ challenge to demonstrate how costs can be reduced and patient health improved by integrating health information technology (HIT) into a transformed clinical workflow. This pioneering effort requires new competencies with patient and population data, more sophisticated technology, and a supporting workforce. So far, we’ve offered technical assistance to more than 50 primary care practices in western Colorado. We are laying a foundation.

The EHR|HIE Interoperability Workgroup — Potentially Earth-Shattering

Yesterday’s announcement of  “Standard Health Data Connectivity Specifications” by the EHR|HIE Interoperability Workgroup (EHR|HIE WG) is potentially earth-shattering.

My mom would not know what I mean by “Standard Health Data Connectivity Specifications,” so I’ll try to write this in plain English.

Who Are These Guys? The EHR|HIE Interoperability Workgroup

The workgroup consists of HIEs (Health Information Exchanges) representing seven of the largest states, eight EHR vendors, and three HIE software/services vendors.

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


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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?

Tire Kickers Need Not Apply: 8 First Impressions of the Medicare ACO Rule

On March 31, CMS released the long-awaited “Medicare Shared Savings Program: Accountable Care Organizations” document (ACO Rule). Read the details here (strong suggestion: unless you’re working on your PhD in ACOs, start with the fact sheets).

There are many surprises. Here are eight first impressions on this 429 page tome:

  1. The bar has been set high…very high.  Tire kickers need not apply.
  2. Don’t expect to see many or any small ACOs.
  3. Patients will be confused by ACOs.
  4. Concerns over maintaining competition and avoiding antitrust are being taken seriously.
  5. CMS scores points for coordinating the ACO Rule across Federal agencies.
  6. CMS loses points for micromanagement and a controlling mindset.
  7. Possible losers — hospitals, ACO vendors.
  8. Possible winners — physicians, health plans.

The details follow.

The Crucial Distinction Between “Accountable Care” and ACOs

AccountablecareWhile in Philadelphia earlier this week, my colleague Dr. David Nace presented me with a print copy of McKesson Relay Health’s newest whitepaper — Providing Accountability: Accountable Care Concepts for Providers.  I felt honored as he handed it to me and confided that it was one of only six copies in print.  I took time to read it carefully on the long flight home.

The whitepaper is a great overview of accountable care and ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations). It’s a quick and easily digestible read.

However, there is one key point articulated in the paper that I’d like to emphasize here:

accountable care is not synonymous with ACOs.

Is Economic Credentialing A Tool for Primary Care to Lead ACOs?

Is economic credentialing — the use of economic factors such as loyalty and utilization rates in the physician credentialing process — a potential tool for primary care physicians to lead ACOs?   and reestablish the vitality of primary care in American health care?

Keith Wright and Gregory Drutchas’ incisive article Economic Credentialing: A Prescription To Secure Shared Savings Under Accountable Care provides useful history and context about economic credentialing:

For many years, the use of economic factors by hospitals in making medical staff credentialing decisions has been the subject of much discussion and debate among physicians, groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA), healthcare providers, payors, and attorneys….the implementation of healthcare reform is likely to bring the debate over economic credentialing to the forefront once again.

While economic credentialing has been talked about a lot, it’s rarely been used.

The controversy over economic credentialing arises again with ACO’s…and this time the answer might be different — and opportunistic for primary care.

Economic Credentialing from the Hospital POV— The Big Red Button

From my personal experiences, the threat of a hospital imposing any type of economic credentialing on their medical staff has been a big red button  issue — akin to a hospital declaring war on some physicians, with the risk of alienating nearly all physicians.

Management guru Peter Drucker wrote that the two most difficult organizations to “manage” were hospitals and the military. Most hospitals work hard to integrate physicians in decision making and they share a great deal of information about clinical and business issues.

Getting DIRECTly to the Point: The Role of the Direct Project in Fast-Tracking Health IT Interoperability

By Rich Elmore and Arien Malec. Rich Elmore is the Direct Project Communication Workgroup leader and Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at Allscripts.  Arien Malec is ONC’s Coordinator, Direct Project and Coordinator, S&I Framework.

A patient’s health records are no longer confined to a doctor’s office, shelved inside a dusty file cabinet. With the advent of the Nationwide Health Information Network, a framework of standards, services and policies that allow health practitioners to securely exchange health data, medical records digitized to be easily shared between doctor’s offices, hospitals, benefit providers, government agencies and other health organizations, all across America.

This health information exchange is dramatically enhanced by the Direct Project. Launched in March 2010, the Direct Project was created to enable a simple, direct, secure and scalable way for participants to send authenticated, encrypted health information to known, trusted recipients over the Internet in support of Stage 1 Meaningful Use requirements. The Direct Project has more than 200 participants from over 60 different organizations. These participants include EHR and PHR vendors, medical organizations, systems integrators, integrated delivery networks, federal organizations, state and regional health information organizations, organizations that provide health information exchange capabilities, and health information technology vendors.

10 Reasons Why an Open IT Platform Strategy is the Right Long-Term Choice for an ACO

  1. Many Physicians and Clinical Service Providers Will Not Be In Your ACO Contracting Network.
  2. Expect Significant Patient Leakage (Migration) Out of Your ACO Network
  3. Expect Patient Demands for Sharing Records.
  4. Minimize Anti-Trust Concerns.
  5. Expect Continuing Government Pressure for Broad Data Exchange.

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.)