Guest Post: Value-Based Care is Dying—But Longitudinal Patient Data Can Revive It

Thursday, November 16th, 2017
This post was written by William D. Kirsh, DO, MPH, CMO at Sentry Data Systems

In 2013, Harvard Business Review (HBR) called value-based care “the strategy that will fix healthcare.” And the concept goes back even further than that—Michael Porter and Elizabeth Teisberg introduced the value agenda in their book, Redefining Health Care, in 2006, accord to HBR. Yet years later, value-based care is still struggling to survive, still in limbo, not quite breathing on its own. At this point, you might say it’s in critical condition.

More than a decade after Porter and Teisberg’s book, the industry is still talking about the “transition” to value-based care. In January of this year, CMS and HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) issued a vision for the continued shift to value-based care. In April, CEOs from Kaiser Permanente, Medtronic, Novartis and others, along with the Netherlands’ health minister, the head of England’s National Health Service, and Harvard economics professor Michael Porter (author of the 2006 book mentioned above) called for a new approach that would embrace patient-centered care and focus on outcomes.

Also in April, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group, released a report, Value in Healthcare: Laying the Foundation for Health-System Transformation. Why are we still seeing words like “a new approach” and “laying the foundation” after all the time we’ve had, as an industry, to embrace value-based care?

After much wandering, it’s apparently a destination we still haven’t found on the map.

Resisting Change

According to a report from professional services organization EY (Ernst & Young) in July, about a fourth of 700 respondents (chief medical officers, clinical quality executives and chief financial officers at U.S.-based healthcare providers with annual revenue of $100 million and higher) polled said they had no value-based reimbursement initiatives planned for 2017. And that’s despite figures stating that healthcare spending in the United States “has now risen to 17.8 percent of GDP,” as the EY report says. So, what’s stopping physicians and hospitals from acting on value-based care?

As Modern Healthcare notes, the EY report points to “the escalating cost of care, a lack of standardization in how quality is defined, a disengaged workforce that leads to more medical errors, and a lack of trust and transparency between providers, payers and regulators,“ as some of the barriers. A 2016 article from Deloitte Insights adds that physician compensation may be part of the problem, stating, “Currently, there is little focus on value in physician compensation, and physicians are generally reluctant to bear financial risk for care delivery…86 percent of physicians reported being compensated under fee-for-service (FFS) or salary arrangements.” Deloitte recommends, “At least 20 percent of a physician’s compensation should be tied to performance goals. Current financial incentive levels for physicians are not adequate.”

But financial incentives alone are not enough. “Regardless of financial incentives to reduce costs and improve care quality, physicians would have a difficult time meeting these goals if they lack data-driven tools,” Deloitte says. “These tools can give them insight on cost and quality metrics, and can help them make care decisions that are consistent with effective clinical practice.”

Achieving Quality Outcomes

The EY report seems to come to the same conclusion as Deloitte about the lack of metrics and data. “Clinical outcomes and healthcare quality are often measured inconsistently by healthcare providers — if they are measured at all,” EY says. One way for hospitals to change that—a vital step in the value-based payment model—is through access to and analysis of longitudinal patient data, which is data that tracks the same patients over multiple episodes of care over the course of many years.

The problem is that hospitals and physicians often do not see the outcomes of particular treatment protocols (prescriptions, diagnostic tests, surgeries, etc.) for a long time, and capturing clinical data with this level of accuracy has historically been the industry’s blind spot. Without having a comparison population, each institution can only compare its data to real-world experience within their own data depository. A critical need is to use a de-identified real-world census population to compare protocols, best practices or specific utilization by National Drug Codes to help identify patterns of interventions that create value consistently across multiple systems, physicians, and patients. To truly answer these challenging questions about value in a meaningful way, hospitals need a comparison longitudinal patient data set.

There are countless questions about patient cohorts that physicians might want answered as they seek to make the best treatment decisions: What treatment protocol will result in the highest quality outcomes for a 50-year-old female diabetic patient with kidney failure? Which medications most effectively keep children with asthma from repeat visits to the ER? What comorbidities and symptoms are seen among patients with acute myelocytic leukemia (AML) in their earliest visits to the ER, and how can that information result in earlier diagnosis or different treatment options down the line? Quality historical longitudinal patient data may answer all these questions.

“Market forces are moving the industry toward a new paradigm; one in which delivering the highest value is an organization’s defining goal,” notes the EY report. “Optimizing patient experiences across the continuum of care while industrializing quality requires more than episodic effort.” This is the crux of value-based care. The only way to bring all stakeholders together and keep value-based care alive is by leveraging real-world, longitudinal patient data and using that information to make actionable treatment and prescribing decisions that lead to overall wellness and financial value, instead of focusing on just acute-care treatment.

William D. Kirsh, DO, MPH, CMO at Sentry Data Systems

About the Author: William D. Kirsh, DO, MPH, is chief medical officer at Sentry Data Systems and a practicing physician, clinically certified in family practice, geriatrics, hospice and palliative medicine. Sentry Data Systems, a pioneer in automated pharmacy procurement, utilization management and 340B compliance, is leading the healthcare industry in turning real-time data into real-world evidence through Comparative Rapid Cycle Analytics™ to reduce total cost of care, improve quality, and provide better results for all.

HIN Disclaimer: The opinions, representations and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of the Healthcare Intelligence Network as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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