Archive for the ‘Healthcare Costs’ Category

ACA Afterlife: Unwinding Obamacare Under the Trump Administration

November 14th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

The people have spoken: the future of the ACA is healthcare's most pressing concern for 2017.

The people have spoken: the future of the Affordable Care Act is healthcare's most consuming concern for 2017.

If U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump delivers on his campaign promises, the 'repeal and replacement' of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be an early priority for the nation's chief executive-in-waiting.

That prospect sent shock waves through the healthcare industry, as evidenced by a snapshot of post-election responses to the ongoing Healthcare Trends in 2017 survey sponsored by the Healthcare Intelligence Network.

"The change or replacement of Obamacare might affect us significantly, including changing our USA market priority over other markets," contributed one respondent.

"We don't know what ACA repeal implications will mean for us," offered another.

Other respondents identified "changes to our government structure and the unknown impact" as well as "lack of clarity post-election" as their most pressing concerns for the year ahead.

Take the Healthcare Trends 2017 survey and receive an executive summary of the results.

Given Trump's ambitious healthcare agenda, much is at stake for industry stakeholders. But is it possible for the incoming administration to unravel the ACA, when the public already has been exposed to many of its provisions? And if repeal is possible, how long might the process take?

Greg Mertz, managing director for Physician Strategies Group, LLC, advises healthcare organizations not to panic about the ACA's demise. "A '“repeal and replace' means that Trump admits Obamacare can't go away. Nothing will happen quickly, and whatever happens will be less dramatic than many expect," predicts Mertz, who points to Trump's lack of specifics as to what might replace Obamacare as further evidence.

"House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has already put forward his plan for healthcare reform, so I would think his ideas will be a pivotal part of what eventually gets passed," continues Mertz. "However, Congress still decides what happens, so whatever Trump proposes will be mired in hearings, staff work, and debate for at least the next year. This means that we limp along with a broken program as we argue what is better."

Also based on Ryan's healthcare proposals, Travis Ansel, senior manager of strategic services for Healthcare Strategy Group, is advising providers to brace for more Health Savings Account (HSA)-related payment woes. "Ryan's plans for Medicare, which have loomed over the industry for five years, bring with them increased patient payment obligations," Ansel explains. "Expect more and more employer-based coverages to shift to HSAs as well. We can expect payors to raise insurance premiums across the board as the Republican-led Congress unwinds the ACA."

Ansel pointed out that major payors were forced to shift their business models and infrastructure to compete in an ACA-focused market. "The quick shift back will be a reality these payors are not prepared for and not prepared to succeed under," he concludes.

As payor margins suffer, adds Mertz, pressure will be placed on commercial insurers to raise reimbursement to offset the gap. "Employers will howl and the feds will be pressured to control costs, especially big pharma."

Where Mertz does expect activity is within the Health Insurance Exchanges created by the ACA. "The insurance exchanges are in trouble already, so we would expect that providers that were seeing significant numbers of exchange-insured individuals would have likely seen a drop in those numbers regardless. I think the number of uninsured will increase in the short-term, as many will decide that paying the penalty is better than paying the premium."

As to what healthcare might look like under the Trump administration, Mertz thinks the industry will see tax credits or vouchers. "However, I seriously doubt we'll see a government-sponsored alternative, which I think we would have seen with (the Democratic presidential nominee) former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."

On the provider side, Mertz expects that while physicians will see little impact, hospitals will see a rise in charity care, and no major increase in income.

For a post-election roadmap to the challenges and opportunities facing healthcare in the year ahead under GOP leadership, don't miss Trends Shaping the Healthcare Industry in 2017: A Strategic Planning Session, a live webcast on Thursday, November 17 at 1:30 Eastern.

Take the Healthcare Trends 2017 survey and receive an executive summary of the results.

Infographic: The Cost of Low-Value Healthcare

October 28th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

The use of low-value care and the associated cost is a significant concern in the U.S. healthcare system—the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) indicated an estimated $765 billion of wasted healthcare expenditures in 2013. However, solutions to measure, identify, and eliminate low-value care are challenging and complex. To date, most efforts aimed at reducing low-value care have been limited to areas where there is a high degree of consensus that the care rendered is low value, according to a new infographic by the University of Michigan Center for Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID).

The infographic examines how VBID can address the issue of low-value care.

Positioning for Value-Based Reimbursement: Leveraging Care Management for Clinical and Financial OutcomesWhile others wait for the healthcare industry to complete its transition to value-based reimbursement, Bon Secours Medical Group has already aligned itself with payment reform, leveraging its care team and providers and automating workflows to enjoy immediate rewards from its patient-centered approach.

Positioning for Value-Based Reimbursement: Leveraging Care Management for Clinical and Financial Outcomes describes how this 600-provider medical group has primed its providers to employ a broad mix of team-based care, technology and retooled care delivery systems to maximize quality and clinical outcomes and reduce spend associated with its managed patients.

Click here for more information.

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Infographic: 3 Ways Hospitals Throw Away Money

October 10th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

More than half of U.S. hospitals lose money on each patient they serve, according to a recent study published in Health Affairs.

A new infographic by SCI Solutions examines three key areas in which hospitals lose money and how to address them.

Since the January 2015 rollout by CMS of new chronic care management (CCM) codes, many physician practices have been slow to engage in CCM. Arcturus Healthcare, however, rapidly grasped the potential of CCM to improve patient outcomes while generating care coordination revenue, estimating it could earn up to $100,000 monthly for qualified patients treated in its four physician practices—or $1 million a year.

Medicare Chronic Care Management Billing: Evidence-Based Workflows to Maximize CCM Revenue traces the incorporation of CCM into Arcturus Healthcare's existing care management efforts for high-risk patients, as well as the bonus that resulted from CCM code adoption: increased engagement and improved relationships with CCM patients.

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AMITA Health Connected Care Management: Patients Transitioned But Never Really Discharged

August 23rd, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

Connected care includes AMITA Health front line staff, administrators, physicians, hospital executives and community partners.


Does a health system really need four types of care managers?

When AMITA Health set out to craft an ambulatory care coordination team for its highest-risk Medicare beneficiaries, it realized it didn't.

As part of its thirteen-point plan to revamp care management across its continuum, the newly minted Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) accountable care organization (ACO) reexamined the roles of its navigators, case managers, patient-centered home care managers and ACO care managers, ultimately abandoning its siloed approach in favor of a more human-centric model of care.

"We really needed a better way to care for our patients across the continuum," explained Susan Wickey, vice president, quality and care management at AMITA Health, during Reducing Readmissions and Avoidable Emergency Department Visits Through a Connected Care Management Strategy, an August 2016 webinar now available for replay. "We had to identify and remove those silos, and break down those barriers."

AMITA Health's decision to remake care management was a response to its MSSP program goal of fulfilling the Triple Aim: improving population health and experience of care while fostering appropriate utilization and cost. The initiative in no way devalued care managers' contributions. "Our care coordinators across the continuum serve as our first responders when high risk patients need intervention," said Ms. Wickey.

In the process of improving efficiencies, the nine-hospital system discovered that often, one could be more effective than four.

With help from Phillips Healthcare Consulting Division, AMITA inventoried its care management resources, then created a single centralized care management hub. Communication would occur via a single universal transfer form for each patient, for whom a single care plan would be developed. This power of one echoed throughout the transformation as AMITA restructured processes and programs.

AMITA rolled out the program initially with one unit of patients; today, all nine of AMITA Health's hospitals operate with some component of this enterprise-wide redesign.

"We wanted to be a health system where our patients were transitioned but never really discharged from our healthcare system," explained Ms. Wickey's co-presenter, Dr. Luke Hansen, vice president and chief medical officer, population health for AMITA Health. "We never discharge a patient from our system; rather we transition our patients to the most appropriate setting."

"This collaborative vision of connected care includes all of the front line staff, key administrators, physicians, hospital executives, along with AMITA's community partners," added Ms. Wickey.

In assessing its MSSP experience, Dr. Hansen said access to Medicare claims data enabled AMITA Health to track utilization, a first for the organization. Trends toward lower all-cause readmissions, lower admissions for ambulatory-sensitive conditions and emergency department visits were recorded, he said. And while he can't definitely credit the MSSP for his organization's improved quality scores in recent years, he takes pride in AMITA's achievements of strengthening quality while holding costs relatively stable.

However, improvements have leveled off since 2013, its first MSSP performance year, which frustrates the population health CMO. "As those of you participating in MSSP know, year-over-year improvement is what you need to do to succeed."

"We live that tension between our old models of care delivery, which were very successful for our organization, and new models, which we will have to adopt in a timely way to be successful in the future," concluded Dr. Hansen.

Click here for an audio interview with Dr. Hansen.

Infographic: Connecting the Triple Aim and Supply Chain Management

August 17th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

Supply chain processes that support caregivers as well as the products that are selected and sourced directly and indirectly impact patient safety and patient satisfaction, according to a new infographic by the Association for Healthcare Resource and Materials Management.

The infographic examines how supply chain management aligns with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement's Triple Aim.

Pursuing the Triple Aim: Seven Innovators Show the Way to Better Care, Better Health, and Lower CostsWritten by the President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and a leading healthcare journalist, this groundbreaking book examines how leading organizations in the United States are pursuing the "Triple Aim": improving the individual experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost of care.

Pursuing the Triple Aim: Seven Innovators Show the Way to Better Care, Better Health, and Lower Costs shares compelling stories that are emerging in locations ranging from Pittsburgh to Seattle, from Boston to Oakland, focused on topics including improving quality and lowering costs in primary care; setting challenging goals to control chronic disease with notable outcomes; leveraging employer buying power to improve quality, reduce waste, and drive down cost; paying for care under an innovative contract that compensates for quality rather than quantity; and much more. The authors describe these innovations in detail, and show the way toward a healthcare system for the nation that improves the experience and quality of care while at the same time controlling costs.

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Infographic: 4 Ways Ambulatory Surgery Centers Control Costs

August 15th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) are helping to keep healthcare costs down—reducing the cost of outpatient surgery by over $38 billion per year in the United States by providing a lower cost site of care compared to hospital outpatient departments, according to a new infographic by SourceMed.

The infographic looks at the four ways that ASCs reduce costs.

Bundled Payments for Post-Acute Care: Profiting from Alternative Payments and Clinical Redesign A desire to position itself at the forefront of healthcare payment reform and be a catalyst for clinical redesign are two factors driving Brooks Rehabilitation's participation in Model 3 of CMS's Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative.

Today, having completed more than 1,000 bundled episodes for total hip replacements, total knee replacements and hip fractures, Brooks has reduced cost by 19 percent per episode, lowered readmissions to about 15 percent across its 60-day time frame, registered a patient satisfaction level of 94 percent and documented significant functional improvement.

Bundled Payments for Post-Acute Care: Profiting from Alternative Payments and Clinical Redesign examines the four domains of success of Brooks' Complete Care program supporting the organization's bundled payment clinical outcomes and financial results.

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Infographic: 18 Million Non-Urgent ED Visits

June 3rd, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

Many states are moving toward co-payments for Medicaid patients who visit emergency departments for reasons classified as "non-urgent," according to a new infographic by Policy Prescriptions.

The infographic examines key characteristics of these non-urgent ED visits.

Industry reforms, expanded coverage under insurance exchanges, Medicaid expansion, and shifting healthcare delivery models continue to influence emergency room utilization. In response, healthcare organizations employ a variety of strategies to reduce avoidable ER use.

2014 Healthcare Benchmarks: Reducing Avoidable ER Visits delivers actionable metrics from 125 healthcare organizations on their efforts to foster appropriate use of hospital emergency departments.

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Are You MACRA-Ready? Physician Groups Prep Members for Medicare Payment Modernization

May 16th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

Physician groups digested the 962-page MACRA notice of proposed rule-making in order to distill the notice for their members.

As they digest the HHS's momentous proposal to modernize how Medicare provider payments are tied to the cost and quality of patient care, physician organizations are assembling arsenals of educational tools to de-mystify MACRA.

The federal government's first step in implementing certain provisions of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) was detailed in an April 2016 announcement.

Just nine days after that bulletin, the AAFP arranged a town hall meeting for its members with two high-ranking CMS officials to discuss the law that will greatly influence how physicians are paid. Comments provided by CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt via conference call are detailed here.

While the HHS window to receive feedback on the proposal remains open through June 27, 2016, the AMA has created an extensive set of online resources to support physician preparations for a post-MACRA Medicare. The resources include a guide to physician-focused payment models, key points of the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), and five things providers can do now to prepare for the legislation, among other resources, according to a May 2016 press release.

“The core policy elements in MACRA are surfacing in other public and private insurance programs, so understanding these policies will be essential for most physician practices,” said AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD.

The AMA's MACRA support tools were announced in conjunction with the release of its new interactive module on practicing value-based care authored by Grace Terrell, MD, an internal medicine physician and president of Cornerstone Health Care, who shares the proven steps her clinic used to focus on patients at the center of care.

The value-based care module is the latest in the AMA’s STEPS Forward™ collection of physician-developed practice improvement strategies.

Also readying its membership for MACRA is the AAFP, which last week launched a comprehensive member communication and education effort related to the proposed legislation. The AAFP's MACRA Ready site is a one-stop shop filled with resources family physicians can use right now such as the following:

  • A timeline of important MACRA dates;
  • A list of acronyms to help digest the alphabet soup associated with MACRA's complicated regulations;
  • A "MACRA in a Minute" 60-second overview video;
  • A deep-dive review of what value-based payment means to family physicians;
  • and much more.

In announcing the MACRA tools, AAFP President Wanda Filer, MD, MB, told family physicians that the academy's MACRA communication plan "is designed to help simplify the transition and provide the guidance that you will need to realize the benefits of MACRA and value-based payments."

A recent AAFP survey indicated that some 40 percent of family physicians already were involved in some kind of value-based payment system, she noted.

As she related the history of MACRA, Dr. Filer reminded members that the legislation not only repealed the sustainable growth rate (SGR) but also established an annual positive or flat-fee payment for the next 10 years as well as a two-track program (the MIPS, and Alternative Payment Models, referred to as APMs) for calculating Medicare payments beginning in 2019.

Infographic: Trends in Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

January 15th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

Between 1999 and 2015, employer-sponsored health insurance premiums increased by 203 percent, outpacing both inflation and workers' earnings. However, growth of premiums for family coverage slowed toward the end of that time period, from an average of 11 percent a year between 1999 and 2005, to 5 percent between 2005 and 2015, according to a new Visualizing Health Policy infographic by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The infographic also looks at the average annual premium for family coverage and how employers are responding to high-cost health plans.

Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2016: Performance Expectations for the Healthcare IndustryFrom cost pressures, consumerism and consolidation to a proliferation of patient-centered, value-based delivery and payment models, the state of healthcare continues to challenge organizations in the industry.

Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2016: Performance Expectations for the Healthcare Industry, HIN's 12th annual business forecast, pins down the trends destined to impact the industry in the year to come and proposes tactics C-suite executives can employ to distinguish their operations in a dynamic marketplace.

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Guest Post: Delivering Value-Based Healthcare Starts at the Top

January 7th, 2016 by Nicholas Christiano, National Managing Partner, Healthcare, Tatum

The healthcare industry has long been characterized by change and evolution. Yet, new requirements introduced by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as changing demands and expectations among patients, have created new pressures for today’s healthcare organizations. Healthcare providers that fail to address this new reality and meet the call for more value-based healthcare that focuses on the patient will struggle to remain sustainable in this changing world.

So, what can healthcare management do to prepare their organizations to deliver more customer-centric care? Although a recent study found that the vast majority of healthcare CEOs plan to improve their ability to innovate, change technology investments and better manage data, very few have made significant headway in these areas. As with any large-scale change, the move to customer-centric healthcare needs to start at the top. To ensure an effective transition, C-level executives, whether the CEO or chief medical officer (CMO), must take the lead to get their teams on board and ensure they can create a sustainable model for the future.

A New Approach to Patient Care

Today’s patients have greater choice in the care they receive, meaning that organizations that don’t provide a positive experience for their patients will struggle to compete. The onus to improve falls on the CEO and CMO, who must revamp the typical patient experience of waiting a long time, only to spend five to seven minutes with the physician. Healthcare leaders can improve the process by making the operation more like a concierge service—scheduling appointments at literal points in time to minimize waiting, enabling patients to enter their information only once and treating patients as valued customers. They should also strive to offer more flexibility by way of extended hours, home visits and telehealth programs that enable patients to have a remote, video-based conversation with their physician.

In addition to optimizing the patient experience, healthcare leaders must also change their cost structures. Rather than the typical process of determining prices behind closed doors and putting a margin on it, costs need to come down, be determined by performance and quality of service and be delivered with greater transparency. More and more, the industry is shifting to a value-based operating model. One such example is the accountable care organization (ACO) model, whereby healthcare providers join together to deliver a payment and care delivery approach that ties provider reimbursements to quality metrics, while driving down costs for an assigned patient population.

The ACO approach links payment to quality improvements that can reduce costs for patients; data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found that the ACO model has led to savings of $417 million since the program began in 2012. As the model continues to evolve, healthcare organizations will be managing a particular portion of the population whom they see regularly. When patients are part of a healthcare organization and receive frequent care, fewer patients will need emergency room service, resulting in lower costs. The industry is increasingly moving towards value-based operating models, but as with any change, implementing the associated customer-centric practices may be easier said than done.

Best Practices to Deliver Customer-Centric Care

To ensure their organizations remain competitive and sustainable in the face of unprecedented change across the healthcare industry, the CEO and CMO must implement the strategies that can lead to positive transformation. Though large-scale changes don’t happen overnight and inevitably will be met with some resistance, healthcare leaders should consider the following best practices to deliver a customer-centric approach:

  1. Meet patients where they are: Today’s healthcare consumers increasingly expect the same level of service from their healthcare providers that they receive in other areas of life and business. Healthcare leaders must spearhead the process changes that meet this demand, by providing greater flexibility, extended hours, home visits and telehealth.
  2. Set the tone for employees: To implement effective change management and overcome employee resistance, CEOs and CMOs must provide strong guidance throughout. Working with other C-suite executives to identify transformation needs, communicate these changes, introduce tools that can facilitate the transition and explain how each employee can contribute to delivering customer-centric care is essential.
  3. Revamp cost structures: To be successful, CEOs and CMOs must deliver on two key priorities: keeping patients healthy and providing service at reasonable costs. This entails designing a fundamentally different operating model and driving down costs for activities that do not provide value – all while offering higher-quality care to their target population.
  4. Seek outside help when needed: Healthcare leaders might not always have the internal senior-level capacity and capability needed to accelerate change. Leveraging the help of an executive talent provider to ensure the organizations have the support and expertise to deliver a more customer-centric patient experience can make all the difference.

Meeting Demand for a New Level of Care

As the ACA has given more people greater access to healthcare—and more options in how they receive that care—healthcare leaders must rethink their current processes to deliver high quality care. If patients are unhappy, they can always switch to another provider. In this age of empowered patients and increased competition between providers, the CEO and CMO must communicate a transformative vision throughout their organizations. This starts with having qualified leadership at the top to guide these changes, the right technology to facilitate the processes and the best team to deliver on this goal. With these factors in place, healthcare organizations can deliver the customer-centric care necessary for success in today’s healthcare climate.


Nick Christiano

About the Author: Nick Christiano is responsible for the overall execution of the National Healthcare Practice for Tatum, a Randstad company. The Healthcare Practice provides executive leadership solutions to healthcare provider organizations, heath plans, private-equity backed bio-tech firms and affiliated organizations where subject matter expertise is critical to a successful client engagement. Christiano is recognized as a leader in the pursuit of optimum patient care, productivity, efficiencies, cost management and navigating new challenges in the healthcare field. He has an M.B.A. in MIS/Finance from the John Hagan School of Business – Iona College and a B.S. with a dual major in Computer Science/Electrical Engineering from N.Y.I.T.

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.