Archive for the ‘Accountable Care Organizations’ Category

Guest Post: Lab Data is the Missing Link in Healthcare Risk Adjustment

June 19th, 2018 by Jason Bhan, MD

Data informing risk adjustment programs is critical under value-based healthcare reimbursement models.

For health plans, value-based care means a continuous need to innovate and improve their risk adjustment, clinical quality, and care management programs. Unless payers identify and receive the correct amount of reimbursement, it is difficult for them to invest appropriately into member care programs for better outcomes while remaining financially successful.

The data informing risk adjustment programs are critical, as they build the foundation for accurate member risk stratification. In that respect, those data sources are directly related to the correct amount of reimbursement payers receive and can invest in proactive care management. In other words, high-quality clinical data delivered quickly enough for a plan to get a member into a care management program early enough is important to the health of the member and the business. The approach leads to improved clinical outcomes and reduced costs in emergency room visits, hospitalizations and chronic condition management.

Lab Data: An Untapped Resource

To achieve such clinical granularity, at scale, plans can turn to diagnostics—or lab—data. Lab data drives approximately 70 percent of medical decisions and, unlike claims data, is available in near real-time. It also provides an unrivaled level of specificity for clinical conditions. When lab data is integrated into plans’ claims- and chart-based programs, it enables earlier, more comprehensive and accurate clinical insights to benefit care management of both existing and new members. Utilizing the same information that clinicians use to make decisions, within the same timeframe, provides a powerful and unique opportunity to intervene and impact a patient’s health.

What Can Lab Data Do for You?

Expanding and improving their clinical data supply with diagnostics data can help health plans to:

  • Provide historical insights on members where claims are unavailable to improve risk adjustment. For new enrollees, this enables the health plan to get new members into the appropriate care/disease management programs from day one.
  • Serve as an early detection system for care management of all enrollees. Plans can identify patients in need of additional or alternative therapy from lab data earlier than from any other data source. For existing members, the detailed results uncover needs that may have been overlooked based on a claims analysis alone.
  • Identify high-risk members for case management and provider interventions from lab data. Optimized risk adjustment aligns reimbursements to health status, enabling the plan to more heavily invest in member care programs.

Applying AI Solutions

When it comes to gaining actionable insights from diagnostics data, plans can benefit from partnering with healthcare artificial intelligence (AI) specialists in the field. Healthcare AI organizations use techniques such as machine learning and natural language processing—coupled with massive computational power—on big data sets, to make sense out of non-standard, complex, and heterogeneous data.

Healthcare AI, when applied to diagnostics clinical lab data, improves risk stratification by identifying diagnoses earlier in the year versus waiting for the claim or searching charts. Rich in clinical details, it presents a more complete picture of the member’s health. Better risk stratification leads to better care management programs; and successful programs have been shown to reduce costs by targeting those most likely to benefit and keeping intervention costs low.

Dr. Jason Bhan

About the Author: Jason Bhan, MD, is co-founder and Chief Medical Officer at Prognos, an innovator in applying AI to clinical lab diagnostics. More than half of the Prognos team is made of engineers, data scientists, and clinicians. Prognos aims to increase the usefulness of disparate healthcare data to better inform clinical decisions and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

Infographic: The Journey to Population Wellness

May 21st, 2018 by Melanie Matthews

Population health has become a puzzle of processes and technologies to improve health outcomes, enhance the physician-patient experience, and reduce costs. The healthcare industry must work together to chart a path toward interoperability, analytics and care tools that will impact the future of population health and wellness, according to a new infographic by Transcend Insights.

The infographic helps convey this journey in alignment with key findings from a Healthcare Financial Management Association executive survey on population health.

Care Coordination in an ACO: Population Health Management from Wellness to End-of-LifeWhen acknowledging its position as a top-ranking Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), Memorial Hermann is quick to credit its own physicians—who in 2007 lobbied for a clinically integrated network that formed the foundation of the current Memorial Hermann accountable care organization (ACO). Now, collaboration and integration continue to be the engines driving the ACO’s cost savings, reduced utilization and healthy patient engagement rates associated with Memorial Hermann ACO’s highest-risk population.

Care Coordination in an ACO: Population Health Management from Wellness to End-of-Life details Memorial Hermann’s carefully executed journey to quality and the culmination of the ACO’s community-based care management program.

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Infographic: Hospital Adoption of Alternative Payment and Delivery Models

May 18th, 2018 by Melanie Matthews

Hospitals and health systems continue to test and adopt alternative payment and delivery models, such as ACOs, medical homes, and performance-based payment, according to a new infographic by the American Hospital Association.

The infographic examines market trends for value-based payment and delivery models.

Profiting from Population Health Revenue in an ACO: Framework for Medicare Shared Savings and MIPS SuccessA laser focus on population health interventions and processes can generate immediate revenue streams for fledgling accountable care organizations that support the hard work of creating a sustainable ACO business model. This population health priority has proven a lucrative strategy for Caravan Health, whose 23 ACO clients saved more than $26 million across approximately 250,000 covered lives in 2016 under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).

Profiting from Population Health Revenue in an ACO: Framework for Medicare Shared Savings and MIPS Success examines Caravan Health’s population health-focused approach for ACOs and its potential for positioning ACOs for success under MSSP and MACRA’s Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

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Infographic: Medicaid ACO State Activity Map

March 2nd, 2018 by Melanie Matthews

State-based Medicaid accountable care organizations (ACOs) are becoming increasingly prevalent across the country, with more and more states pursuing ACOs as a way to improve health outcomes and control costs through greater provider accountability, according to the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS).

CHCS has created an interactive map that offers an ongoing update of Medicaid ACO activities by state, including governance structure, scope of services, and payment model.

Care Coordination of Highest-Risk Patients: Business Case for Managing Complex PopulationsAsked by its C-suite to quantify contributions of its multidisciplinary care team for its highest-risk patients, AltaMed Health Services Corporation readily identified seven key performance metrics associated with the team. Having demonstrated the team’s bottom line impact on specialty costs, emergency room visits, and HEDIS® measures, among other areas, the largest independent federally qualified community health center (FQHC) was granted additional staff to expand care management for its safety net population.

The Care Coordination of Highest-Risk Patients: Business Case for Managing Complex Populations chronicles AltaMed’s four-phase rollout of care coordination for dual eligibles—a population with higher hospitalization and utilization and care costs twice those of any other population served by AltaMed.

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Population Health Tactics to Boost an ACO’s Medicare Annual Wellness Visit Rates

February 9th, 2018 by Patricia Donovan

One of the most important revenue opportunities for primary care physicians, and for population health nurses under their direct supervision, is the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit (AWV), advises Tim Gronninger, senior vice president of development and strategy, Caravan Health. The AWV offers an opportunity to check a number of Medicare quality boxes, including preventive check-ins, vaccinations and health screenings, to help make sure that a beneficiary’s medical needs are being met.

Here, Gronninger suggests ways that physician practices can improve all-important AWV rates.

Much of increasing annual wellness visit rates is about how to manage expectations of the practice and of the patient. You’ll be chasing your tail a lot if you are looking at your data and saying, “Well, these 1,000 patients haven’t had an annual wellness visit. I’m going to make a thousand phone calls, and then I’m going to make a thousand follow-up phone calls to try to schedule them all.”

It is very important for a practice to create a process where you have the time, the space and the plan, so that when a patient comes in the door for an Evaluation and Management (E&M) visit, the patient is handed off seamlessly to a nurse coordinator to complete an annual wellness visit at the same time. Obviously, different patients will require different handling. But we have found a very high acceptance rate from that approach among patients of clients that we work with.

It’s something that many patients take for granted, that their clinician knows this about them already. However, many times, the physician in practice doesn’t know whether the patient is up to date on their mammograms or other types of screenings.

Editor’s Note: Caravan Health’s ACOs saved more than $26 million in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and achieved higher than average quality scores and quality reporting scores in 2016.

Source: Profiting from Population Health Revenue in an ACO: Framework for Medicare Shared Savings and MIPS Success

ACO population health

Profiting from Population Health Revenue in an ACO: Framework for Medicare Shared Savings and MIPS Success examines Caravan Health’s population health-focused approach for ACOs and its potential for positioning ACOs for success under MSSP and MACRA’s Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

In Successful ACOs, Population Health Focus Paves Way for Shared Savings Payouts

January 25th, 2018 by Patricia Donovan

Physician practices toiling in fledgling ACOs and obsessing over shared savings that have not yet materialized, take heart: population health offers multiple revenue streams for accountable care organizations waiting for the “gravy” of accountable care.

“Gravy” is the way Tim Gronniger, senior vice president of development and strategy for Caravan Health, refers to ACO shared savings payouts, which he says can take considerable time to accrue.

“It is literally two years from the time you jump into an ACO before you have even the chance of a shared savings payout,” Gronniger told participants in Generating Population Health Revenue: ACO Best Practices for Medicare Shared Savings and MIPS Success, a January 2018 webcast now available for replay.

Obsessing over shared savings is one of the biggest mistakes hospitals in ACOs can make, he added.

This delay is one reason Caravan Health urges its ACOs to adopt a population health focus, whether pursuing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Quality Payment Program (QPP) Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).

Gronniger’s advice is predicated on his organization’s experience of mentoring 38 ACOs. In 2016, Caravan Health’s ACOs saved more than $26 million in the MSSP program and achieved higher than average quality scores and quality reporting scores, according to recently released CMS data.

Walking attendees through a MACRA primer, Gronniger underscored the challenges of the MIPS program, one of three tracks offered under the Quality Payment Program. “Barring a really exceptional performance on MIPS, you can’t even break even over the next few years on physician compensation,” he said.

In the meantime, ACOs should utilize recently rolled out Medicare billing codes, from the annual wellness visit (AWV) to advanced care planning, to generate wellness revenue. With proper planning, reengineering of staffing and clinical work flows, a practice could generate anywhere from five hundred to one thousand dollars annually per eligible Medicare patient, Gronniger estimates—monies that offset the cost of constructing a sustainable ACO business model.

To back up this population health rationale, Gronniger pointed to data from an ACO client demonstrating the impact of a cohesive PHM approach, including the use of trained population health nurses, on completion rates for preventive screenings. For less top-of-mind screenings like falls assessment and smoking cessation, completion rates rose from negligible to near-universal levels, he said.

“These are recommended sets of screens that are required by CMS, but that also help ACOs with quality measures,” he added.

Gronniger also shared examples of dashboards, scorecards and roadmaps Caravan Health employs to help keep client ACOs on track. An ACO success strategy involves “a lot of dashboarding, checking in, and discussion of problems and barriers, discussion of solutions, and monthly and quarterly measurement and reporting back,” he said.

Beyond coveted shared savings, ACO participation offers significant non-financial benefits, including quality improvements under both MSSP and MIPS standards, availability of ACO-specific waivers, and access to proprietary performance data.

Overall, ACO participation can make providers more attractive both to commercial contractors and to potential patients perusing Physician Compare ratings in greater numbers.

Gronniger ended by weighing in on the recent recommendation by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to repeal and replace the MIPS program.

Assessing MIPS’ Fate: “MedPAC Vote Would Not Affect 2018 Under Any Scenario”

January 18th, 2018 by Patricia Donovan

Tim Gronniger

Tim Gronniger, Senior VP of Development and Strategy, Caravan Health

Amidst healthcare provider outcry over last week’s vote by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to repeal and replace the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), an industry thought leader sought to remind physician groups that no change to MIPS is imminent.

“MedPAC is an advisory body, not a legislative one,” said Tim Gronniger, senior vice president of development and strategy for Caravan Health, a provider solutions for healthcare organizations interested in value-based payment models, including accountable care organizations (ACOs).

“Congress would need to adopt MedPAC’s recommendations in order for the changes to go into effect. It is reasonable to expect MIPS to evolve over time, but that evolution will be gradual. [MedPAC’s vote on MIPS] would not affect 2018 under any scenario.”

Gronniger made his comments during Generating Population Health Revenue: ACO Best Practices for Medicare Shared Savings and MIPS Success, a January 2018 webcast sponsored by the Healthcare Intelligence Network and now available for rebroadcast.

Earlier this month, MedPAC voted 14-2 to scrap the MIPS program, describing it in a presentation to members as “burdensome and complex.” According to the advisory commission, “MIPS will not succeed in helping beneficiaries choose clinicians, helping clinicians change practice patterns to improve value, or helping the Medicare program to reward clinicians based on value.”

MedPAC is expected to pass this recommendation along to Congress in coming months, along with a proposed alternative. In MIPS’s place, MedPAC is suggesting a voluntary value program (VVP) in which “group performance will be assessed using uniform population-based measures in the categories of clinical quality, patient experience, and value.”

MGMA’s Anders Gilberg reacts to the MedPAC ruling.

Among the provider groups reacting to MedPAC’s actions was the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). In a Twitter post, Anders Gilberg, MGMA’s senior vice president for government affairs, called the VVP alternative “a poor replacement,” claiming it “would conscript physician groups into virtual groups and grade them on broad claims-based measures.”

The day prior to the January 11 vote, MGMA had reached out in a letter to Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), requesting CMS to immediately release 2018 Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) eligibility information, which it called “vital to the complex clinical and administrative coordination necessary to participate in MIPS.”

Infographic: Medicare Advantage Trends

January 10th, 2018 by Melanie Matthews

As medical groups and large systems transition to risk-based models, they expect nearly 60 percent of federal revenues will come from risk-based products (bundled payment, Medicare Advantage (MA), Medicaid Managed Care Organizations, and Medicare Accountable Care Organizations) by 2019, according to a new infographic by AMGA.

The infographic shows the anticipated the growth of MA as well as what this means for healthcare providers.

Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2018: Performance Expectations for the Healthcare IndustryGiven the powerful patterns disrupting healthcare, what will it take to succeed as a high-velocity healthcare organization in 2018?

Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2018: Performance Expectations for the Healthcare Industry, HIN’s 14th annual business forecast, is designed to support healthcare C-suite planning as leaders react to presidential priorities and seek new strategies for engaging providers, patients and health plan members in value-based care.

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2018 Success Strategy: Differentiate to Survive Next Wave of Healthcare

January 5th, 2018 by Patricia Donovan

Are supermarkets the next wave of healthcare?

Perhaps not, but if a health insurer can move into the community pharmacy, why not the local grocery store?

On the heels of the recent non-traditional CVS Health-Aetna merger and amidst other swirling consolidation rumors, industry thought leaders are encouraging healthcare organizations to embrace similar partnerships and synergies.

And given the presence of pharmacies inside many supermarkets, “there is potential for greater synergies around what we eat, what we buy and how our healthcare is actually purchased or delivered,” suggests David Buchanan, president of Buchanan Strategies.

“The bonanza [from this merger] might be where data can be shared between CVS’s customers and Aetna’s customers and whether we can steer those CVS customers to Aetna,” he added.

Buchanan and Brian Sanderson, managing principal of healthcare services for Crowe Horwath, sketched a roadmap to help healthcare providers and payors navigate the key trends, challenges and opportunities that beckon in 2018 during Trends Shaping the Healthcare Industry in 2018: A Strategic Planning Session, a December 2017 webinar now available for rebroadcast.

Key guideposts on the road to success: data analytics, consolidation, population health management, patient and member engagement, and telemedicine, among other indicators. Also, organizations shouldn’t hesitate to test-drive new roles in order to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

“If you are not differentiated, you will not survive in what is a very fluid marketplace,” Sanderson advised.

Honing in on the healthcare provider perspective, Sanderson posed five key questions to help shape physician, hospital and health system strategies, including, “What are the powerful patterns?” Industry mergers, an infusion of private equity money into areas like ambulatory care and emerging value-based payment models fall into this category, he suggested.

These patterns were echoed in four primary trends Sanderson outlined as shaping the direction of the healthcare market, which faces an increasingly “impatient” patient. “I could tell you the market wants care everywhere,” he said. “In the same way we have become impatient with our commoditized goods, so have patients become impatient with accessing care.”

Among these trends are “unclear models of reimbursement,” he noted, adding that after a self-imposed “pause” relative to healthcare reimbursement at the start of a new presidential administration, the industry is ready to “restart with some new sponsors now.”

Notably, Sanderson advised providers to embrace population management. “Don’t think population health, think population management. It’s no longer just the clinical aspects of a patient’s or a population’s health. It’s the overall management of their well-being.”

Following Sanderson’s five winning strategies for healthcare provider success, David Buchanan outlined his list of hot-button items for insurers, which ranged from the future of Obamacare and member engagement to telemedicine, healthcare payment costs and models and trends in Medicare and Medicaid.

Healthcare payors should not underestimate the value of engaging its members, who today possess higher levels of health literacy, he stated. “The member must be an integral part of healthcare transactions, as are the provider, the facility and the insurer. The member must have a greater level of personal responsibility and engagement in the process.”

Offering members wearable health technologies like fitness trackers is one way insurers might engage individuals in their health while creating ‘stickiness’ and member allegiance to the health plan.

Telemedicine, the fastest growing healthcare segment, is another means of extending payors’ reach and increasing profitability, he adds. “Telemedicine is not just for rural health settings anymore, but is finding another subset of adopters among people who can’t fit a doctor’s visit into their busy schedule.”

Payors should expect some competition in this area. “I believe the next wave [of telehealth] will be hospitals expanding into local telehealth services as a lead-in to their local clinics,” Buchanan predicted.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in healthcare is growing, but Buchanan and Sanderson agree that adoption will be slow. On the other hand, expect more collaboration between digital players like Amazon, Google and Apple and larger health plans.

“You will see [synergies] when you can put those two players together: the company that can bring the technology to the table as well as those companies that bring the users to the table,” concluded Buchanan.

Listen to a HIN HealthSounds podcast in which David Buchanan predicts the future of mega mergers in healthcare, the impact of the CVS-Aetna alliance on brand awareness, and the real ‘bonanza’ of the $69 billion partnership, beyond bringing healthcare closer to home for many consumers.

Guest Post: Are You Preparing to Fail Healthcare Compliance in 2018?

December 19th, 2017 by Tim Feldman and Darci L. Friedman

A 2018 roadmap to healthcare compliance should focus on cybersecurity, vendor management and telehealth.

As the year winds down, we see numerous lists of priorities healthcare organizations should focus on in the coming year. However, if you are looking to those end-of-year lists for guidance on what your organization should pay attention to in 2018, you are already behind. If you do find yourself playing catch-up, drafting your 2018 compliance work plan is the best place to start.

As the roadmap for your compliance efforts throughout the year, your annual work plan should indicate key high-risk areas. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has indicated that developing an annual compliance work plan is integral to the administration of an effective compliance program (Measuring Compliance Program Effectiveness – A Resource Guide).

The annual work plan and compliance program administration are but one portion of what is required for an organization to have a robust and effective compliance program. The required elements of a compliance program are the following:

  • Standards, Policies and Procedures;
  • Compliance Program Administration;
  • Screening and Evaluation of Employees, Physicians, Vendors and Other Agents;
  • Communication, Education and Training;
  • Monitoring, Auditing and Internal Reporting Systems;
  • Discipline for Non-Compliance; and
  • Investigations and Remedial Measures.

These elements provide a broad framework for your organization to identify risk, proactively remediate and provide a response mechanism to mitigate when there is an exposure. Working the plan and program throughout the year helps your organization achieve a state of ongoing readiness.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is one item that will likely factor more heavily in your work plan, and appropriately so. Last June, the HHS Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force released a report on improving cybersecurity in the industry. The Task Force concluded that cybersecurity, at its core, is a patient safety issue and a “public health concern that needs immediate and aggressive attention.”

Some of the areas to address in the broader realm of cybersecurity include:

  • Ransomware;
  • Email security, including phishing;
  • Internet of Things (IoT) and devices;
  • Bring your own device (BYOD); and
  • Medical identity theft.

As the Task Force report notes, cybersecurity must be thought about across the continuum of care in your organization. Work to shift the culture and thinking that cybersecurity is simply a technology issue, of concern only to the IT department.

Do this by implementing policies and procedures for key cybersecurity issues and then communicating them across the organization. Follow that with training, including everyone in your organization, from staff to board members. The training should: define cybersecurity; explain how it may manifest in the organization, and address your policies and procedures, making it evident to all what they can and cannot do and how to respond.

Third-Party Vendor Management

The outsourcing of services to third-party vendors is increasingly common and for good reason. Such relationships offer great benefits, but at the same time, these relationships also carry legal, financial, reputational and compliance-related risks. Here are seven questions to evaluate your third-party vendor relationships:

  • Does your organization, as a covered entity (CE) under HIPAA, have a vendor compliance program to help you identify, manage and report on these risks?
  • Do you review and assess your vendors’ risk profile?
  • Are you familiar with each vendor’s hiring practices?
  • Do you know which vendors’ products connect to other IT systems that contain critical data, including protected health information (PHI)?
  • Do you have insight into each vendor’s information security and data privacy capabilities?
  • Do you know with which vendors you have a business associate agreement (BAA)?

For many healthcare organizations, the answer to several of these questions is likely “no,” which creates risk for those organizations. The OIG’s position is clear: healthcare entities have a responsibility to proactively identify, assess and manage the risks associated with their vendor relationships.

All vendors are NOT created equal. A good starting point in managing an effective and efficient third-party compliance program is to perform a risk-ranking of vendors based on their access to critical assets or information. By segmenting your vendor population into “risk tiers” you can focus limited resources on the most serious exposures.

Components of third-party compliance assessment should include, among other things:

  • Due diligence (background, reputation, strategy);
  • Knowledge of, and compliance with, security and privacy requirements;
  • Operations and internal controls (policies and procedures);
  • Workforce controls, background and exclusion checks; and
  • Training and education.

And, of course, with every vendor that meets the criteria of a Business Associate, ensure that a written BAA is in place. BAAs can be complex and are often daunting, but they must be carefully negotiated and acknowledged by both parties.

By ensuring your vendors have strong compliance programs in place and that they are following through on the BAA requirements, your organization is meeting its compliance obligations and doing its best to minimize its risks.

Telehealth

The compliance concerns related to the delivery of care via telehealth are numerous and include the following:

  • Licensing;
  • Credentialing;
  • Security;
  • Regulatory requirements for billing; and
  • Fraud and abuse.

An area to focus some attention on is payment under federal healthcare programs. The OIG currently has two active work items on telehealth, one for Medicaid and one for Medicare. Both of the items relate to the propriety of payment for telehealth services.

If your organization provides telehealth services, consider conducting a risk assessment to determine if you have any exposure in the area. Risk assessments are not strictly one of the 7 required elements of a compliance program, but they are often referred to as the “8th Element” given the focus on them in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and OIG documents.
Risk assessments, along with the other elements of a compliance program, provide your organization the means to identify, prioritize, remediate and/or mitigate the myriad on-going risks it will encounter. If you are not working your compliance program and specific risk areas throughout the year, you are failing to adequately prepare for an event. By failing to prepare, as one wise man said, you are preparing to fail.

About the Authors: Tim Feldman is Vice President and General Manager of Healthcare Compliance & Reimbursement at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S. He oversees product development across a vast suite of practice tools and workflow solutions to help professionals stay ahead of regulatory developments and effectively manage compliance activities. Darci L. Friedman, JD, CHPC, CSPO, PMC-III, is the Director of Content Strategy & Author Acquisitions for Healthcare Compliance, Coding & Reimbursement at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S. She is responsible for supporting the overall strategy for developing new content and features, innovating new product models, and recruiting top content contributors.

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.